Since getting her hard-earned internship at The Rosie O’Donnell Show, tenacity, authenticity and empathy have driven Amy Emmerich’s career. She is now Refinery29’s global president and chief content officer.
“There was always a ‘fight for the few’ [mentality] that has stayed steady within my career that probably started at The Rosie O’Donnell Show… You know, first one in the morning to show up, last one to leave, and be willing to do any job,” said Emmerich, who serves on Promax’s board of directors and as conference committee chair.
Emmerich knew from an early age that she wanted to be involved in entertainment. Her first steps were majoring in radio and television broadcasting at Iona College before going behind the camera.
“Once I started shooting camera, I really didn’t know what to do next,” she said. “I had to figure out how to utilize the skill sets that I still loved about that job, and I felt that society pressured women around that time period that—in order for me to have kids, the picket fence and a husband—I needed to take on different types of roles that would keep me in one place.”
After having worked at producer roles at HBO, Oxygen Media, and MTV Networks, Emmerich became the vice president of production and development for the Travel Channel and, soon after, Vice Media, where she led international creative efforts and oversaw production teams across multiple verticals. Each role fueled the other not only with experience, but with relatable characteristics that she applies to her leadership style today.
“I believe in trust and loyalty. That’s what leadership is made out of and you have to show respect to every participant on the team. I think production teaches you that everyone from a PA to an EP is necessary and needed in order to execute things on time, on budget and with great quality work.”
In 2014, Emmerich became executive vice president of programming at female-focused digital media company, Refinery29, where she felt an immediate shift in the environment.
“When I walked into the building, I’d never seen such a safe space with so many women truly expressing themselves. It was a space that allowed me to find my own voice and courage to be who I was and, therefore, lean into my leadership qualities,” Emmerich said.
“Ever since that moment, it felt like a privilege to be able to be in a position to commission underrepresented voices and narratives that people would take for granted. It really helped me realize how to shift perspective, create positive change, and respect an audience [enough] to truly serve them along the way.”
Since that day six years ago, Emmerich has spearheaded the company’s original programming, including the Shatterbox short film series for female filmmakers, which is now in its third season with Level Forward. She’s also committed to fostering a space for her team to thrive and, together, create meaningful content for the next generation of women.
“I think nothing is more satisfying than seeing someone create something they’re proud of. That makes society and culture a better place,” she said. “I feel like my job is to make sure the foundation is there so that they can create in the best way possible. I love seeing it every day and consuming what gets made, and then I really get inspired by it. It pushes me to make sure the environment in which they’re creating is a safe one.”
Her growth at Refinery29 expands beyond responsibilities as well. For Emmerich, an “open book” who has blurred the lines between her personal and work life, the growth has been personal as well.
“The people inside Refinery29 helped me grow into a better leader because they truly embraced all of me. I don’t waste time worrying. I want to do my best for them and I think that feels reciprocal.”