Life and Career Strategist
Michele Thornton-Ghee ’84
Michele Thornton-Ghee ’84 didn’t graduate college until the age of 30. Between high school and college, she dated the wrong men, gained 30 pounds, and cleaned homes for a living. “I had a job I hated, was in a bad relationship, straddled with debt, and had no vision for my life,” she said.
Losing her beloved father to cancer served as a catalyst for Thornton-Ghee making significant life changes.
“My father was such a huge influence in my life. I watched him work hard not only to provide for our family but also to give back to our community. I remember him telling me that I was not allowed to use his illness as an excuse to miss work or not excel. On his deathbed, I made my father a promise that I would make him proud of me. I stand on that promise to this day,” Thornton-Ghee said.
Thornton-Ghees’ first step in fulfilling the promise was earning a bachelor’s degree with honors in business management from Golden Gate University. She later completed The Women’s Leadership Forum program at Harvard Business School.
Currently senior vice president for BET HER (a subsidiary of BET Networks/Viacom Inc.), Thornton-Ghee is the head of television sales for BET HER- a 24-hour African-American lifestyle network designed for Black Women. She and her team are charged with growing the revenue base for the network.
Thornton-Ghee also recently published her second book, Stratechic 2.0, Her Plan, Her Power Her Purpose, which provides a 10-step framework for women to develop a personal life plan. “I wanted to write a book about my experiences. I knew I had a story to tell that would interest women,” she said.
“Women are born strategists. We typically use that strategy to benefit the people around us – our families, our businesses, our kids,” she said. “I’m telling women if they take their inherent abilities and apply them to a life plan and build out a strategy they can do anything. Some of my favorite chapters in the book discuss activating self-awareness – because understanding how others view you is a powerful tool – and asking for what you’ve earned. Knowing yourself and having the ability to articulate who you are at any given time is critical in getting what you want.”
The single most important advice Thornton-Ghee would give to women trying to live their best lives is to “take time back from people who don’t deserve it, use that time to build a plan, activate your relationships to achieve the desired outcome, ask for what you’ve earned, never walk into a room unprepared, and time stamp the plan to make sure you are pushing yourself to get it done.”
A sales professional in the media and entertainment space for 20 years, Thornton-Ghee struggled with the lack of opportunity for advancement in her field. “I created new businesses and generated millions of dollars for my previous companies. That wasn’t enough to get promoted. It wasn’t enough to have an opportunity to lead people. I was stuck and became frustrated with the system. I should have been frustrated with myself because I didn’t have a plan, didn’t leverage relationships, and didn’t ask for what I had earned. I finally realized that I had the power to change my station in life and I haven’t looked back since,” she said.
Thornton-Ghee has received several industry honors, including the 2011 American Advertising Federation Mosaic Role Model of the Year Award and the 2009 ADCOLOR Change Agent Award. Earlier this year, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters from Golden Gate University. “I’ve been so blessed to be recognized for my hard work and contribution to the community I serve,” she said.
When asked what it’s like to be one of the few Black women who are leaders in the media/entertainment industry, Thornton-Ghee says, “I don’t like to think about what it’s like or how it feels. I want to save all my energy and focus on changing the numbers. Women in general don’t hold enough senior-level positions in most industries. We still are not paid with parity yet we are breadwinners in four out of 10 homes. My goal is to give women the tools they need so that they can achieve all they were created to achieve so none of us have to answer the question ‘How does it feel to be one of the few?’ ”
Read more about Thornton-Ghee and her work at http://stratechic.com/