I started Thursday morning with an omelet, strong coffee and councilman Tom LaBonge enthusiastically introducing four well-known L.A. female figures to a crowd of 100 engaged attendees. No, it wasn’t a fundraiser to support a political campaign. Los Angeles magazine hosted a breakfast conversation at Public Kitchen and Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to discuss female leadership and gender inequality. With editor-and-chief Mary Melton as moderator, the panelist included City of LA first lady Amy Wakeland, Academy Award-winning actor and advocate Geena Davis, and Mount St. Mary’s president Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson.
Together these four women came guns blazing with answers, research and ideas on how to get women in more leadership positions. Each work in different industries, so they offered different perspectives, however, they all came to agreement on several key points:
▪ More research is still needed on gender inequality in the workplace
▪ We need more women in leadership roles, but we’re making progress
▪ We are moving the needle forward just by making gender inequality a topic of conversation
▪ We need more women involved in the movement—and gaining the support of some men would be great, too
Each woman is actively using their influence to make a difference:
Geena Davis started an organization called Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to promote the awareness of gender roles in the entertainment industry. Davis raised a significant amount of money to conduct research studies that examine how women are represented in films. This includes family films like the ones our children watch over and over. As I’m sure you can guess, women did not come out ahead. For instance, males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. The research also found that 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes (directors, writers, and producers) to every one female.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that the actor who played the strong female character Thelma in the movie Thelma and Louise, was behind this type of organization. But I WAS surprised to learn that the entertainment industry is in need of this type of organization and is suffering from such a gender imbalance.
Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson agreed that more women need to be in powerful positions, but she added that they also need to be seen in unconventional types of roles. She has been instrumental in promoting issues related to women in her role as president of the all-girl, liberal arts college in LA, Mount St. Mary’s College. On March 27, she delivered The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California to a sold out crowd on their campus in Downtown LA. The Report highlights information on the status of 19 million women and girls in California. I highly recommend checking out this research. Who knew we had this type of research at our finger tips?! These are the times I feel fortunate to live in state that offers these types of resources.
Amy Wakeland, LA’s own first lady and wife to Mayor Eric Garcetti, discussed how they are encouraging women to get involved in politics, which by-and-large is male dominated. I almost fell out of my chair when she said that only 25-35% of government is made of women. Mayor Garcetti and his administration have improved these numbers during his time in office. Wakeland’s view is that women can’t gain experience in politics if they’re not given the opportunity in the first place.
Ok, so how do we affect real change on gender inequality in our own lives? The answer is to have more women actively pursuing leadership positions. As Wakeland implies, women need to just get started somewhere. That means jump into a career that you want to excel at or begin a project that you’ve been itching to start. Do it now. Stop reading the rest of this blog entry and start your project. (Yep, I just said that.) This could be anything you want to start—a new profession, a hobby or a new company. Begin by telling people your idea—get people behind you. Trust me, when you tell someone your idea, you hold yourself accountable. (For me, the idea for this blog started with one person, my boyfriend. I thought he was going to be bored with the idea of a blog spotlighting women in L.A., but he was jazzed about the idea.) So Nike this thing, and Just Do It.
What project have you been itching to start? More importantly, what steps are you taking to start it?