The leader of the free world may be an African American man, but we're hardly in a post-racial society. A woman may have won the Academy Award for directing (an action movie!) in 2009, but women are still severely underrepresented in the entertainment industry both on screen and behind the scenes.
This past weekend, Pepperdine University Law School's Straus institute for Dispute Resolution hosted the Women in Hollywood Conference. Over two hundred attendees flocked to hear successful women panelists speak about their experiences negotiating the system and how to tackle the challenges ahead.
"While overt sexism has been eradicated, it hasn't been pulled out by the roots," advised TV writer-producer, Nell Scovell, who also co-authored Lean In with Sheryl Sandberg. "It's like they botoxed the entire women's movement. We're frozen and we can't even look surprised."
In the top grossing 250 films of 2012, 9 percent of directors were women, 15 percent of writers and 17 percent of executive producers.
"I can't tell you the number of women who I run into who say, 'Not that I'm a feminist but...,'" said Melissa Rosenberg, creator of ABC's Red Widow and screenwriter of the entire Twilight franchise. Rosenberg says she was refused an interview to write for 24 because they "already had a woman writer." "These young women believe the battle has been won," said Rosenberg. "It hasn't."
And since it hasn't, here are five tips from the two-day conference for how to continue the fight.
1. Educate yourself about gender bias.
In Lean In, Sandberg shows that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. The higher on the corporate ladder a woman climbs, the less likable she is perceived to be. The opposite is true for men. Organizational behavior professor Herminia Ibarra calls innate preferences like this Second Generation Gender Biases. These include the notion that women value money less, are more emotional and deserve to be repaid less often for favors they do for colleagues because they are "nurturing." They want to help. Raising awareness of these biases and discussing them with friends and colleagues is the only way to implement change.
2. Embrace the science of your brain's gender.
When Barbara Annis, author of Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender Science to Create Success in Business, showed a slide during her keynote speech of the male and female brains at rest, the mostly female audience gasped in surprise, then recognition. The activity in the male was clumped at the back of the brain, while the female activity continued to pulsate throughout. Women have significantly more neurons connecting the two sides of their brain as well as more insula (improving intuition) and memory centers. As a result, women and men have different approaches to paying attention, completing tasks and de-stressing. Women pull information from both sides of their brain to solve problems while men use a more linear processes and one side of the brain at a time. Understanding the power and the pitfalls of one's internal wiring helps you optimize your own functioning and avoid misinterpretations of the opposite sex's behavior.