Deborah Dugan is a strategic leader, change agent, purpose-driven marketer, and social entrepreneur recognized as one of the "100 Most Powerful Women" by Forbes, “Top Woman to Help Change the World” by Elle, and "Nelson Mandela Changemaker” by PTTOW!. Deborah’s illustrious career spans progressive leadership milestones starting as an attorney on Wall Street to becoming Executive Vice President at the EMI Record Group, President of Disney Publishing Worldwide, CEO of (RED), the first female CEO (in 62 years) of the Recording Academy™ and currently, head of social & global reform at Handshake. An inspirational leader, speaker, and collaborator, Deborah works at the intersection of top corporate industries and multi-million dollar not-for-profits to create programs with far-reaching impact. To that end, she sits on the board of The Moth, an award-winning not-for-profit dedicated to promoting the art of storytelling and elevating unheard voices. Deborah also recently joined Jonathan Newhouse, Salma Hayek, and Alex Morgan on the Board of Girl Effect, which uses the reach of media and technology to unlock the power of girls’ content, choices, and changes.
As Chief Strategist for the social impact agency, Handshake, Deborah works with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on its Innovation in the Time of Covid- 19 project. Together with NFP Goal 17, they launched Think Bigger: The Power of Partnerships Playbook, which reimagines how companies can use their transformative power to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Deborah is also committed to changing America’s criminal justice system, particularly in the areas of technical violations of parole and probation as a strategic advisor to the REFORM Alliance. REFORM, led by Meek Mill, Jay-Z, Van Jones, Clara Wu Tsai, and others successfully changed laws in six states with Federal legislation pending.
Prior to the pandemic, and through her determined efforts, Deborah advanced the mission of promoting diversity, inclusivity, transparency, and governance within the music industry as CEO of The Recording Academy™. Serving as President/CEO of the Academy's charitable affiliate MusiCares® and as Board Member of the GRAMMY Museum Foundation® and The Latin Recording Academy®, she created the strategic vision for the annual GRAMMY Awards®. Her advocacy for fair play for creators, equal access to music education for every child, and commitment for MusiCares to increase its support in the community, won her loyal fans across the industry.
Steering social engagement efforts as CEO of (RED), the not-for-profit organization founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver to raise awareness in the fight against AIDS, Deborah provided invaluable strategic vision for eight years uniting with iconic brands Coca Cola, Salesforce, and Bank of America to show the impact technology, corporate responsibility and innovation can create in philanthropy. Under her tenure, (RED)’s groundbreaking campaigns and partnerships included Beats by Dre, Starbucks, Latin America's Claro & Telcel, Super Bowl, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Amazon, and Snapchat. During this time (RED) also reached $600M for the Global Fund and impacted the lives of 110 million people.
Previously, as President of Disney Publishing Worldwide, a $2B retail division of the Walt Disney Company, Deborah spearheaded innovative solutions, content, and franchises for eight years, resulting in an increase of revenue and operating income of over $100M. Starting as a business affairs attorney and evolving to Executive Vice President at EMI/Capitol Records, she worked with artists such as Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Tracy Chapman, and Placido Domingo. Deborah was also Senior Advisor to the Tribeca Enterprises Board, a global media company established by Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatcoff as well as a mergers & acquisition attorney along the way.
The hallmark of Deborah’s storied career is systemic change and social justice. Her expert perspective is highly sought after as a speaker on topics including the role of the private sector in driving social impact and the importance of living a life of value. She is a Tribeca Disruptor Awards Fellow, a Columbia University Business School Innovation Fellow, a judge/consultant for the IBM Call to Code and Elle’s Female Entrepreneur of the Year initiatives, as well as a contributing writer to Forbes.