best actress oscars 2016
04 Mar

Why Hollywood’s Battle to Improve the Role of Women in Their Industry is So Important for Future Women in Business

There's an ongoing discussion in Hollywood about unequal pay and unequal opportunity for women. Actresses including Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lawrence and Patricia Arquette have all made public statements about the gender inequality in Hollywood. I hate to tell you ladies, its not just Hollywood. Its everywhere.

But its not the pay gap and the number of roles available that is also a hot topic, its the types of roles and the types of stories being told that are at the core of problem. This past week at the Oscars as the nominees for the two top acting categories were read off for both the men and the women, we couldn't help but notice the roles these actors characters played. Note the disparity in the descriptions between the men and the women. The "J" next to each one indicating a job. Three of the ten female nominees' characters were described by the job or career they held in the film, while all but one of the male characters had jobs. Thats women that is.

Best Supporting Actress A murderous fugitive with a price on her head A young woman drawn into a forbidden relationship in the 1950's An intrepid reporter searching for the truth  "J" An artist who's spouse undergoes pioneering gender confirmation surgery Plainspoken marketing chief goes toe to toe with Steve Jobs "J"

Best Supporting Actor Ex neurologist turned financial genius "J" Sadistic fur trapper "J" Persuasive investigative journalist "J" Socialist spy pivotal to prisoner exchanged "J" Aging fighter named Rocky Balboa "J"

Best Actress Divorce bound woman finds unexpected passion with a shop girl A young mother who with her son escapes captivity and adjusts to the world outside A struggling single mother, an inventor who builds a business empire "J" A woman whose marriage is tested by the revelation of a decades old secret A young Irish immigrant torn between two countries and two separate lives

Best Actor The blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo "J" The resourceful astronaut abandoned on Mars "J" The vengeful frontiersman betrayed by his companions "J" The brilliant and complicated co-founder of Apple "J" One of the first people to undergo gender confirmation surgery

If we are going to change Hollywood, we have to have more women behind the scenes writing stories that feature women in careers. Bottom line. And we need more women in studio executive roles and management roles, pushing the envelope and forcing change from within. ABC recently named Channing Dungey as the new studio head, a bold and wise move on the part of ABC we say. After all, it was under her direction as the head of Drama for ABC that Shonda Rhimes developed some of the top rated television for the network.

Channing Dungey, previously ABC’s drama chief, will take over the prime-time part of his job as the head of ABC entertainment, making her the first black network president. Ms. Dungey’s elevation is a breakthrough for an industry that has often struggled with diversity, especially among the senior executive ranks. - New York Times

In an old boys club like Hollywood, Channing's promotion is a "hurrah" that we all hope will lead to more notable moments. She joins the ranks of other female executives in Hollywood including Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm) and Donna Langley (Universal Pictures) but the numbers are still glaringly low in comparison to the roles the men play in Hollywood leadership.

Why does this Hollywood struggle mean so much for the rest of us? Its because we all emulate what we watch. What we watch, the roles women and men play in the television shows and films we consume, the message we send through every sexist, narrow-minded role we put a woman in tells 10 year old boys in Mumbai, Singapore, Denmark and Iowa that's the way women are and should be treated. Without more women in leadership roles, director roles, screen writing roles, editing roles and acting roles - and women over the age of 30 too - we cannot implement a culture shift that will positively affect the opportunities for all girls globally who aspire to be something more. As Geena Davis says "If she can see it, she can be it." Not just young girls, all of us. We are all influenced by what we watch.

Female directors are in what ‘‘Girls’’ creator Lena Dunham calls ‘‘a dark loop.’’ If they don’t have experience, they can’t get hired, and if they can’t get hired, they can’t get experience. ‘‘Without the benefit of Google,’’ Headland said, ‘‘ask anybody to name more than five female filmmakers that have made more than three films. It’s shockingly hard.’’


The problem is so glaring that in 2005, the actress Geena Davis, who would go on to start her own gender institute, commissioned Stacy Smith, a researcher at the University of Southern California, to study the issue and help push the studios beyond Dude World. From 2007 through 2014, according to Smith’s research, women made up only 30.2 percent of speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing fictional films.


But the most wildly lopsided numbers have to do with who is behind the lens. In both 2013 and 2014, women were only 1.9 percent of the directors for the 100 top-grossing films. Excluding their art-house divisions, the six major studios released only three movies last year with a female director. It’s hard to believe the number could drop to zero, but the statistics suggest female directors are slipping backward. Prof. Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University reports that in 2014, 95 percent of cinematographers, 89 percent of screenwriters, 82 percent of editors, 81 percent of executive producers and 77 percent of producers were men. - New York Times

How are women going to make it in Hollywood?  By helping each other. As someone who has pitched a TV show to network television, met with ALL of the women-centric you tube channel producers, met with top women in tv development roles and even has a female agent (with one of the top four agencies I might add)...the lack of "let me help you make this happen" in the Hollywood community is kinda astounding. I have been in the business world for more than 25 years. I have sat the table with Presidents and CEOs of major corporations and time and again those incredibly busy and in demand women (and men) have said "let me help you make this happen." Calls and emails were sent, introductions made and deals got closed because I was able to follow up on an introduction. In Hollywood, that has not been my experience. If we expect Hollywood to do more for us women, we first have to do more for each other. If help each other it will mean more women producing thought provoking, inspirational, educational and entertaining content in Hollywood which means more opportunity to impact and influence how women are perceived worldwide. Which means more career opportunities for more women.

So ladies in Hollywood keep pushing and we will keep pushing with you. This is why we support the Geena Davis Institute. This is why is was so important to us to introduce you to Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair of Playing House on USA (the ONLY two women writers / actors / producers in with their own show in comedy tv today). Support those women who are producing content in Hollywood by watching their shows and movies. And tweet them. Every link is this post is to a twitter account. Tell them you read this post and you appreciate their efforts!

Media is powerful. Our voices are powerful. Our actions are powerful. With every stride forward we affect positive change. Whether we are fighting for moms in the career world or pounding on the doors of Hollywood, MomFair is in it alongside you.

Read More
23 Jan

Meet Comedy Writers and TV Stars Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair of Playing House

Two years ago I was invited to visit the set of USA's Playing House, a new sitcom by real life best friends and (at the time) new moms, Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. Already of fan from watching their previous incredibly funny show, Best Friends, I was eager to see what it was all about. We went backstage in Maggie's house and at Rosie's, the bar they frequent on the show and got watch them shoot the "Spaghetti and Meatballs" episode. Up close and personal with Keegan-Michael Key and the guys as they enacted a "full monty" segment was hilarious! Afterwards, the ladies met with all of moms on the tour and chatted with us about the show. These ladies are so real both on tv and off that when you bump into them at the grocery store (like I did recently) I just walked on up and gave Jessica a hug and said "nice to see ya."

In PLAYING HOUSE, when pregnant Maggie discovers her husband cheating, her BFF Emma gives up her career to help Maggie raise the baby. Now the lifelong friends must navigate their biggest and most hilarious adventure yet, in the best way they know how - together. - USA Networks

What I love about the show is the chemistry between Maggie and Emma....and the laughter!  These women are craazy!  Plus the casting and writing are superb! Keegan Michael-Key, the hot cop, as Emma (Jessica St. Clair's) ex , Zach Woods (also on Silicon Valley) as Maggie's quirky brother and Jane Kaczmarek as Emma's mom. You can binge watch the first two season on USA!

What's so relevant about these two women and their show is that, well, they are two women, two FUNNY women who write comedy for television, on their own show which they developed, produce and star in.  Plus its a show about female friendship and motherhood and it has a largely female fan base. Which in Hollywood is pretty rare. They are part of the ranks of writers like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kourtney Kang (How I Met Your Mother and Fresh off the Boat), Liz Tucillo (Sex and the City and Smash) and Dawn Dekeyser (Samantha Who). These women whose names we may not know, by and large, influence the media we consume.

And the media we consume influences the way we see ourselves and our careers. A few years back Geena Davis launched the Geena Davis Institute because she realized the media she and her daughters were consuming were not accurately reflecting the roles of women in contemporary society. The statistics on what Geena and her team discovered are staggering. The media our children consume affects the way they see their future roles, and the way young boys see women's future roles.

But our children aren't the only ones affected by the media we consume. There are not enough women in leadership roles in TV and film both on and off camera. How the world see's women on the screen affects they way we view our abilities in the real world.

"Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female." - Geena Davis Institute

Jessica and Lennon are two women in Hollywood who are making a difference to change these statistics. So we invited Madeline di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute to chat with them about their show, their careers and their friendship. Join us at 4:30 on Sunday, January 31 at MomFair as we cap our incredible day of empowerment with a really cool (and fun) discussion! Playing House just announced their 3rd Season and its starting soon. I for one can't wait #Girlfriends. Get tickets to MomFair online.

*To read the full reports from the Geena Davis Institute CLICK HERE. MomFair is a supporter of GDIGM and their efforts to improve the quality of film and television for future generations of girls and women.

Read More