Now that the awards season has swiftly come and gone, punctuated by the Writers Guild Awards two weekends ago and the Academy Awards on Sunday night, there’s a lot of career mojo and moxie to be learned. Or at least fodder for copious thoughts.
One by one, as each team member of the production picked up their hardware from actors to producers to screenwriters to cinematographers, it’s hard not to be inspired by pursuing a dream, no matter how lofty. But, it’s also hard to overlook the statistics.
Of the 180 nominations, 35 women were nominated; this equates to 19% female nominees to 81% male nominees! Furthermore, one-quarter of the categories didn’t have any women at all. As grim as the numbers are, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is also reflective of women in the industry. As an entertainment journalist, it appears almost every single one of the directors and producers I have ever interviewed during the last decade has been a man.
Do these low numbers represent a field that lacks many women to begin with, or do the numbers reflect the fact that women are indeed present in the industry and unfortunately, invisible and potentially un-Oscarworthy? Regardless of the answer, assuming yes and no respectively, neither would be considered a win.
As I pondered the questions while disregarding the sad but truthful answers, a bigger issue loomed: Where are the women in this field and other industries for that matter? Where are the women who are filmmakers, directors, editors, the screenwriters?
Related: The Global Gender Gap
The Women’s Media Center also pointed out that 77% of the voters for the Oscars are men! President Julie Burton said, “The Women’s Media Center exists to change the status of women in media. The statistics show that we are only rarely using half our talent and usually hearing half the story. That’s the problem.”
Fast forward two nights. To continue the story further, I listened to a lecture series with Gloria Steinem here in NYC at the 92nd Street Y, known for its ability to reel in notable names for thought-provoking Q&A sessions. This put a bow on the topics only to want to devour them today and tomorrow and the day after that. (And it’s no coincidence as I researched the media center further, it turns out Ms. Steinem was one of the co-founders along with Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan.)
Get this: She worked as a comedy writer on television for two years in NYC before leaving her job to be a full-time activist as one of the leaders of the feminist movement!
The careerist in me got thinking: Imagine if we all sought a higher calling? What if our current roles aren’t leveraging what we are truly capable of? Our passions, our skills, our burning desires, our ability to corral the troops? And, what a tragedy it would have been if she never left comedy writing!
Related: The ‘Career Woman’ Myth
As the audience rose to its feet when she walked onto the stage, many of us were moved. Actually, that’s an understatement: Out of nowhere, my eyes suddenly welled up with tears. I got choked up, too! Instead of fighting the feeling, I chose to embrace the tears of gratitude; who knew such strong emotions were going to take over? (Interesting because I interview notable names in person and barely even flinch. Seeing her from the balcony clearly made an incredible impact!)
Questions raced through my head like, “Would I have been able to be an independent woman living in New York City without strong pioneers before me?” I wondered and simultaneously shuttered at the thought I previously took for granted.
So yes, we were moved by one powerful woman and a movement which gave us more options on countless levels but for one in particular, careers and making our own mark. (Of course, this isn’t to imply the movement is close to being over or has completed its mission, but rather, to point out what she and others have accomplished in paving the way.)
As she spoke about sisterhood, her quote reminded me of cruelty in the office in which women sometimes undermine each other. Oh, don’t you wish everyone would get this memo! “We are a chosen family. You have each other’s backs. You care about the same things. You’re like a girl gang.”
Or how about her advice to eight year-old girls which technically isn’t any different from 38 to 88: “Have fun – dance at the end of the day, tell the truth, and support each other.”
Perhaps what resonated most is the fact that we have options for the most part, and without oversimplifying it, we must create new ones which didn’t previously exist. We owe it to ourselves. And of course, to our mothers. And most definitely to our daughters.
Given the bleak Oscars statistics as merely one example, it’s clearly a much bigger issue than this one article. However, perhaps the first step is recognition as pointed out by the stats, and as for the second step? Action. And owing it to ourselves to rock out to our fullest career potential, recognizing generations before us didn’t have the opportunity.
As modern women with many more career options available than our mothers and certainly their mothers, this quote ignited a spark: “We live the unlived lives of our mothers. Hopefully girls’ [in this generation] mothers will have lived their own lives. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Here’s to women in the here and now owning it; fully living our own lives so our daughters may be able to live their own vibrant ones as well! And thus, the torch is no longer passed to live vicariously through someone else, but rather, to create invigorating and worthwhile journeys of our own. Or at the very least, to have the choice to do so.
For more from Vicki Salemi on genConnect: Career Chat With Candace Bushnell of ‘Sex and the City’
**As a footnote, I wanted to meet Ms. Steinem so badly that I camped out near the visitor’s exit after the talk concluded, but alas, she had already left. I got so excited at the mere notion of meeting such an icon and couldn’t imagine saying anything other than two simple words on behalf of my Gen X sisters: “Thank you.”
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