By Alison Emilio, Director, ReFrame
We live in an age where there is a day and hashtag for almost everything. March 8 marked International Women’s Day – a day that over 3.7 billion women across the planet shared with National Peanut Cluster Day and National Proofreading Day here in the U.S. We are also in the middle of National Women’s History Month – which we share with National Nutrition Month and, ironically, National Frozen Food Month. All gimmicks aside – make no mistake. We need to own our days – to celebrate women and their history – our successes as astronauts, congresswomen, Supreme Court justices, news anchors, record-breaking Olympians, Academy Award-winning filmmakers, CEOs of billion dollar companies and Wonder Woman on-screen, and behind the camera.
This year's theme for International Women’s Day was #PressForProgress, a call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. ReFrame thought partner and sponsor Mercer pushed this theme with “When Women Thrive,” a day of meaningful conversations and actions that organizations can take towards progress. The program covered sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, female representation in front of and behind the camera, and the need to diversify our storytellers.
Mercer Partner, Pam Jeffords started the day with a challenge. "After years of excruciatingly slow progress, we have heard a lot of painful stories told over this past year. Many of you in this room are storytellers, and we are excited to be here because we believe your industry has a real opportunity to take and tell these stories, and paint a new picture of what the world can be. Your organization needs to seize the opportunity for change."
Cathy Schulman, Board President of Women In Film, talked about the conflation between sexual harassment, sexual assault, and discriminatory behavior that is happening and the need to address gender parity. "Sexual harassment in our industry is an effect, in many ways, of a discriminatory landscape. From the top-down you are seeing behavior that favors men, disfavors women, promotes lack of inclusion of women—environments are created that harbor bad behavior."
Amy Ziering, producer/director of award-winning films THE INVISIBLE WAR and THE HUNTING GROUND, talked about power dynamics and triggers for sexual assault in the military, on college campuses, and in Hollywood. She shared that we are living in a revolution being fought not with weapons, but with words. "Sexual assault is the most ubiquitous, misunderstood, and invisible crime in our society. One in three women will experience it in her lifetime." She urges us to keep meeting and talking and sharing – “Without the conversation, we are not going to change culture."
ReFrame co-founder and Sundance Executive Director, Keri Putnam, shared that inclusive representation in media is more than a question of equity in hiring. It recognizes that the images and stories we create help us make sense of the world, understand one another’s experiences and imagine possibilities. She quoted Rebecca Solnit who wrote: “A valued person lives in a society in which her story has a place.” This is the change that we want to see – a change that is possible when we diversify the storytellers. Keri also stressed the importance of joining forces across the field – as collaborators – in a larger effort to create the change we want to see, in much the same way the apparel industry did when it formed the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to adopt more environmentally-friendly practices. There is greater impact that comes through collaboration.
Let’s make this International Women’s Year – and accelerate our progress towards parity.