A low-profile, high-stakes meeting of 44 top entertainment industry leaders, who gathered in L.A. for two days in October, has gone public. The purpose of the meeting, which included executives who typically compete with each other, was to take on a persistent problem for the industry as a whole: the lack of women in entertainment jobs, both in front of and behind the camera.
“The private meeting, one of the first attempts by Hollywood decision makers to grapple with gender bias as a group, came as federal investigators conduct a probe into possible gender discrimination in Hollywood,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “After two days studying the issue, participants concluded with agreement on a series of steps, including developing a seal of approval to recognize studios and networks that show progress.”
The conference, organized by Women in Film and the Sundance Institute, took place Oct. 14-15 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, The gathering included executives from Warner Bros., Lionsgate, Marvel, HBO and DreamWorks Animation, along with agents from Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor and United Talent Agency.
The meeting, dubbed “The Systemic Change Project: Moving the Needle for Women In Hollywood,” was led by Carolyn Buck Luce and Rob Evans of Imaginal Labs.
The Times quotes Cathy Schulman, head of production at STX Entertainment and president of Women in Film, saying: “People who normally spend all day long trying to screw each other were in there together trying to figure out this gender issue. This is not a shaming process. We’re not saying, ‘You’re the bad guys.’ We’re saying, ‘This is your situation. We’ve been doing it the same way for so long. We need to retrain our brains.'”
Deadline.com reports that the meeting produced a four-point plan:
(1) Advocate “Unconscious Bias” training across the industry. (2) Develop and launch a Gender Parity Stamp to recognize films and television shows — as well as production companies, networks and studios — that show measurable progress to achieving gender equity. (3) Launch a Sponsor/Protege Program. (4) Ambassadors among the industry leaders who attended the meeting will get the word out to studios, networks and agencies.
Erik Feig, co-president of Lionsgate, who participated in the meeting, is quoted by Deadline saying: “As someone who has professionally and creatively greatly benefited from women as protagonists, directors, producers, writers, fellow executives and audiences, gender parity has always seemed like the most win-win goal for anyone in the entertainment industry so getting behind this objective was a very easy decision for me.”
TheWrap notes: “Public attention on gender inequality in Hollywood has elevated the issue to a level of crisis within the industry, even as inequality persists. In 2013 and 2014 only 1.9 percent of the directors of the 100 top-grossing films were women, one of many depressing statistics that illustrate the issue.”