Representation is a huge problem all throughout American Society, and the c-suite is no stranger to a lack of diversity; there are only four black CEO's of American companies on the Fortune 500 companies.
Debra L Lee, who was most recently the Chief Executive Officer of BET Holdings, Inc. (Black Entertainment Television), is one of the few black female executives who broke that ceiling, made a serious in her industry, and continues to strive to make an impact in everything she does.
Consider this article your go to resource on Debra L Lee's life story and her net worth.
Debra L Lee was born on August 8, 1955 in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After growing up in Birmingham, Alabama and excelling in high school, Debra L Lee went on to receive her bachelor's degree in political science from Brown University. At Brown University, Debra studied abroad in Asia, and became interested in the politics of the region and the legal process generally. Soon after, she moved on to Harvard University, where she received both her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her master's in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government. After Harvard, Debra L Lee went to clerk for Barrington Parker in Washington, D.C.. After completing her clerkship with the district court judge, she went on to work as a regulatory lawyer at the Steptoe & Johnson firm.
Debra L Lee began her career at BET as the vice president of legal affairs and general counsel in 1986. As vice president, she is credited for created the legal division of BET, and from there, continued to inject the company with her passion, hard work, and vision. Debra L Lee rose through BET for the next seventeen years and had no intentions of leaving the company, having found a home. She held various positions throughout her ascent, including corporate secretary and president of the publishing division. In 1996, Debra L Lee became BET Holdings inc. president and the company's Chief Operating Officer. As president, she fully immersed herself in the company, and was a pivotal player in their direction, possessing unrivaled knowledge and passion for what she believed BET could become, outside of its primary function as a music video hub.
In 2005, she became Chief Executive Officer of BET Holdings inc. with a clear vision of where she wanted to take the company. She saw a void in content being produced about the black experience, and believed BET was positioned to live up to its name fully by producing original content, prioritizing their company culture, and investing in the communities they represented. BET exploded in popularity and became what it is today – a behemoth network, with tons of different programming, including sitcoms, movies and documentaries, talk shows, public policy analysis, concerts and music specials, and much, much more.
Net Worth and What's Next
After her fifteen year reign as CEO of BET, Debra L Lee net worth reached $30 million. Debra L Lee grew her net worth through her unwavering passion and work ethic dedicated to her vision of what BET is today. She stepped down as CEO in 2018, and continues to serve on the board of several high profile companies. Rather than continue to focus on growing her net worth – which, she certainly could do, on account of how much her expertise, leadership, and ingenuity are worth – Debra L Lee is looking to further her philanthropic endeavors. Having always been a focus for her in the past, she is now turning her focus towards starting an initiative aimed at increasing the representation of black women in tech
Image Credits: Kenneth C. Zirkel / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)