Betsy Beers is the executive producer behind three of 2014's most successful shows: "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal" and "How To Get Away With Murder." She also happens to be a serious badass, as evidenced by her rousing speech at Marie Claire's Oct. 30 New Guard luncheon -- an event Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief Anne Fulenwider called a "room full of women who can get it done."
At the event, Beers spoke to the audience about her start in television, her long-time partnership with powerhouse Shonda Rhimes -- she referred to herself and Rhimes as "two chicks, three time slots" -- and the barriers she faced as a woman trying to do something different on TV.
Beers said that she and Shonda's first pilot, for "Grey's Anatomy," came from their desire to see their own lives (or something emotionally similar) on television.
“We were two strong, competitive women with dark and twisty centers for whom work was a paramount importance, who had complicated love lives and messy relationships with a diverse group of friends who were as screwed up as we were," Beers said. "When we looked at the television landscape around us, we didn’t see us in any network dramas or really, anywhere else.”
She also spoke about the pushback that they got about the premise of "Grey's" -- the main character, Meredith Grey, gets drunk and has a one-night stand with a man who turns out to be her superior and the new job she's about to start -- before the pilot aired. Beers recalled a particularly charged meeting she had, in which she and Rhimes were the only women present:
It was a room full of men and one older guy high on the food chain decided to share -- “I mean, this pilot! I don’t see how anyone in America can sympathize or identify with this lead character! This woman, she goes out, gets drunk, has a one night stand with a guy the night before she starts a new job as a doctor? What kind of professional woman would do that?"
“Well, me." As I am sure some of you healthy, happy people with vaginas might have done too. And I could no longer be grateful or just say yes, or hold my fucking tongue or act like a geisha at these meetings, so I proceeded to explain to him that indeed, I had actually done exactly that…. I remember Shonda looking at me with pure joy, and the guy, well he couldn’t call me a slutty slutster to my face, so the subject was dropped. At least in front of us. Meredith and Cristina and the other characters continued to have sex in on-call rooms for years to come.
And lucky for viewers, this sex-positive legacy has trickled into revolutionary moments on "Scandal" and "How To Get Away With Murder" as well. There's a reason that millions of women (and men) tune into ABC's Thursday night lineup every week. It's not a fluke -- it's the type of programming that audiences want to see.
"It feels like we're being treated like a trend or a quota to be filled," said Beers. "Women on television are not a fad. We are not a trend. We are a reality, and we always have been."
More photos from Marie Claire's New Guard event: