Passing the Mic to Women in Film

Passing the Mic to Women in Film

Media shapes culture and how we see ourselves, yet equality is far from reality in Hollywood. Just look at the gender imbalance at the Oscars this year. While the percentage of female nominees has certainly improved over the past two decades, women are still woefully underrepresented when it comes to the most prestigious categories that both men and women can win like best director, best picture, best-adapted screenplay, and best original screenplay. In fact, there have been more than 10,000 nominations since the first Oscars ceremony in 1929 and women represent just 14% of those nominated. 
This year’s ceremony is just the most recent chapter in a long history of women being underrepresented in Hollywood. To change the equation, we need to raise the visibility of women across the entertainment industry and increase the number of female storytellers, directors, producers behind the scenes. 
That’s why we brought industry leaders and influencers together in the Equality Lounge @ Sundance Film Festival in partnership with Screenvision Media. Unlike the Oscars, the festival is a place that has reached gender parity across many of its main categories. Of the 65 directors in Sundance’s four competition categories this year, 46% were women, 38% were people of color, and 12% identified as LGBT.

Pat Mitchell and Glenn Close on “Becoming Dangerous Women” in the Equality Lounge @ Sundance Film Festival

In the Equality Lounge, there were a variety of panel discussions about gender equality, with an emphasis on how women and men in Hollywood are taking steps to fight damaging stereotypes and achieve equal representation of women both on and off the screen. Notable guests included two groundbreakers, Glenn Close and Pat Mitchell, who were the first and second women on the Sundance Institute board. Here are some of the heartbeat moments from our conversations.
Culture Comes First
“Gen Z will be the last generation to be majority white. That’s an entirely new generation that’s growing up with diversity as their norm.” — Christine Martino, Executive VP, National Ad Sales, Screenvision Media, on how culture is evolving within entertainment, advertising and media — and what it means for each of us.
“Leaders need to lead by example and take their full parental leave. There are more pros than cons. When you give more to your employees, they give more back. When we show loyalty to our employees they will take the company to the next level.” — Ricky Ray Butler, CEO, Branded Entertainment Network, on why forward-thinking family leave policies are just the first step.
“People are afraid they’ll lose their spot when they take parental leave. Because it’s not mandated at a federal level, corporate leaders have to make the decision to be family first.” — Thai Randolph, EVP and General Manager, Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Network, on the gaps between a company’s benefits and its culture of encouraging workers to utilize them.
The Most Authentic Stories Come Straight from the Source
“There is power in partnership. We had a program called The Talk. It addressed how African American women have to have a talk with their children about safety. We wanted to shine a light on this in order to give rise to change.” — Anna Saalfeld, Brand Manager, Entertainment Marketing & Media, Brand Operations, P&G, on how the stories female creators tell positively impact how women are represented in media.
“I’ve changed careers many times. There comes a moment in your job where you think, ‘I’m ready for what’s next.’ I think about what is the 20% of this job that I liked the most and how do I make that part be 80% of my next role?” — Joanna Popper, Global Head of VR for Location-Based Entertainment, HP, shares insights from her professional trajectory.
“I need to feel that a story is authentic and believe in the character deeply enough to be able to find my common humanity with them.” — Glenn Close, Activist, Actor in Four Good Days, on walking in another person’s shoes.
It’s Each of Our Responsibility to Create Change
“We need to start early. We have to provide them with opportunities at very young ages. If you see what little kids create today, it’s incredible!” — Anna Lewnes, Executive VP and CMO, Adobe, on strengthening the pipeline.
“As a director, when I hire my heads of department I am incredibly careful about who I choose. Because many people don’t expect a director to look like me. I surround myself with people who will listen.” —Shana Feste, Writer/Director, Run Sweetheart Run, on how she navigates being a woman behind the camera.
“Representation is everything. We have to create a pathway for other people to come through the door.” — Sharon Harris, VP, Alliance Relationships, Google Marketing Platform, Deloitte Consulting, on the importance of equitable storytelling in today’s world.
“Never stop learning and trying to understand people and their experiences. It is so important to continue to grow.” — Carmen C. Brown, TV/Video Investment Lead, Facebook.
We’re Better Together
“There has been a history of women in competition within the film industry but I think we’ve reached a moment where we’re ready to grab hands and move forward together.” — Naomi McDougall Jones, Actress, Writer, Producer, on how women are transforming the entertainment industry.
“If I break through the door I’m going to bring everyone in behind me and create that title wave. When we work together, big things happen.” — Roxanne Avent Taylor, Co-Founder and COO, Hidden Empire Film Group, on the power of collaboration.
“You speak up, you stand up and you show up. Thank you for that.” — Pat Mitchell, Author of Becoming a Dangerous Woman, Co-Founder, Curator, Host of TEDWomen, to Glenn Close.
Progress will only happen if we increase awareness among decision-makers about the importance of equal representation in film and beyond. Now that we’re more conscious of the barriers and opportunities for female creators, let’s do better. When we amplify women’s voices, we positively impact how women are represented in film, media, and advertising.


For more buzz from the Equality Lounge, check out:
From Sundance to Davos, Parental Leave Takes the Spotlight 
Seen & Heard in the Equality Lounge @ Davos 2020
Where We Stand Today