Equality in Hollywood?

No. Equality for women does not exist in the wonderland of Hollywood. Women producers, directors and writers are vastly underrepresented. The industry and those in it will agree is run by money, for money and at its core is about money. How can more women make inroads in the major areas of creativity and production? A recent opinion article in the New York Times, “How Can Women Gain Influence in Hollywood?discussed several points of view with interesting ideas to challenge the industry to create more opportunities for women. To read article, click here.

The consensus is that women must be resolute and continue to fight for increased representation in all facets of the entertainment business.  This may not be an especially creative solution, but not giving up is the only solution.  The history of Hollywood has many examples of women who have been remarkably successful. They achieved success by being strategic, tenacious, and applying their talent and brains. Primarily, they did not walk away from the challenges and discrimination they faced daily. And yes, there is progress, but unfortunately, inequality is alive and well in Hollywood and the struggle continues.

Today I would like to introduce you to an extraordinary trailblazer who made it possible for other women to work their way through the maze of Hollywood’s “good ole boy network.” I learned about this “forgotten” Hollywood hero while I was writing Women Trailblazers in California: Pioneers to the Present. Please meet Dorothy Arzner.

Arzner, born  in 1897, was a noted film director during Hollywood’s’ Golden Age.   Sexism was a dominate feature in the film industry when Dorothy Arnzer decided to embark upon a career in editing and script writing in the early 1920s. In spite of this environment, she became the only female director during the post silent boom of Hollywood filmmaking and the first female member of the Directors Guild of America. Her exceptional talent was quickly recognized by the leaders of the industry, and Arnzer moved from typing, editing, and writing scripts, to directing for Paramount studios.   She made history by directing Paramount’s first sound movie and then transformed film sound technology by essentially creating the first boom mike. During her career as a director from 1928 to 1943, Arzner was able to make a smooth transition from directing three silent movies to fourteen “talkies.”Between the years 1927-1932, Arzner directed eleven feature films for Paramount and then left to work on her own.  RKO hired her to direct Katharine Hepburn, their new star, in Christopher Strong.

Arzner was not a typical Hollywood luminary; she did not fit whatever that illusion was. Her life, her persona, and her films were not the expected norm for that era. It was no secret that Arzner was a lesbian and lived for more than four decades with dancer and choreographer Marion Morgan who appeared in some of her movies. Dressed in suits, ties, and short hair combed tightly back, she emitted an authoritarian demeanor. This may have been her way to portray herself as “the man in charge” and to fit into the Hollywood boy’s club.

Although she established the largest oeuvre by a woman director, her work had been practically excluded in accounts of film history. Not until the 1970’s and the rediscovery of her work in a project of feminist film studies, did she finally receive the critical acclaim she deserved.   During the rise of the feminist movement in the 1960’s and 70’s, when Arzner’s career and works were “rediscovered,” the younger feminist film scholars described her films as challenging the dominant, male oriented society of the times. Arzner, however, did not want to be boxed in and labeled as a gay or woman director.  She was, above all, a director. For women who wanted a career in film, she became a role model. For feminist film scholars, she was the subject of much debate. These younger women wanted to give Arzner the recognition that eluded her and believed she deserved from her generation.

The Directors Guild in 1975 honored her with a “Tribute to Dorothy Arzner.” Katharine Hepburn sent a telegram which read: Is it wonderful that you’ve had such a great career, when you had no right to have a career at all.” Arzner’s noted quote is “When I went to work in a studio, I took my pride and made a nice little ball of it and threw it right out the window.” This quote perfectly described Arzner and how she became an acclaimed director in a predominantly male industry.

Women like Arzner had to continuously struggle for the status they deserved. It may be distressing that several generations later, talented, creative and exceptional women are still on an uphill road to “make it” it Hollywood. However, Arzner and some of the brilliant young directors of today are exemplary of the success that is within reach.

Please share your thoughts.

Who is Julia Morgan?

Many of you reading this blog are familiar with the name Hearst and probably the world-renowned Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. Some of you had the breathtaking experience of visiting this splendid landmark. In your mind’s eye, envision the images of magnificent architecture and pools and gardens. Another structure that also conjures up a lovely image is the detailed and intricately designed Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.  If one were asked to picture the architect who designed the castle and restored the hotel, most likely it would be a male figure. That assumption is incorrect. The woman who is responsible for the design of these structures and 700 more is Julia Morgan: the first woman architect in California, first woman graduate in the University of California, Berkeley civil engineering program, and the first woman permitted to attend the influential art school École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Morgan was one of the most significant architects in the early twentieth century and a trailblazer for women in civil engineering and architecture. She was a legend unto herself in California structural design history.

During the 50 years of her long and brilliant career, Morgan designed over 700 structures including the bell tower on the campus of Mills College in Oakland, a structure that withstood the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Asilomar Conference Center, hundreds of residences, churches, clubs, banks, schools, hospitals, and large retail stores. Some of her residential projects may be categorized as ultimate bungalows and express the Arts and Crafts Movement in the American Craftsman style of architecture.  However, her signature commission is the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Today, the official name of the 90,080 sq. ft. estate is the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument.

The life of this amazing trailblazer, architect and visionary will be celebrated with at Julia Morgan 2012 Festival that begins on October 1st, 2012, and lasts for over six weeks, ending on November 16th. To learn more about Julia Morgan you can find her biography in my recently released book, Women Trailblazers of California: Pioneers to the Present, here and for more information on the Julia Morgan Festival, click here. Enjoy reading more about the brilliant first woman architect in California.

Women’s Equality Day 2012

Let us celebrate Women’s Equality Day by remembering and honoring the brave women who fought the battles state by state with fierce determination to ensure that all of us have the freedom to vote and ultimately political independence.

Early in the history of the United States, the battle for woman suffrage had been waging for decades, and long before the Civil War, women were seeking voting equality. In the 1870’s, a group of pioneer suffragists demanded their own political voice and civil rights; they did not want men deciding their future. It was, however, not until 1920 were all women granted enfranchisement with the passage of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution. There were hard fought battles, devastating defeats, countless alliances, and many divides, but they never wavered in their determination for woman suffrage. Women finally achieved the freedom men had since 1776; to choose for themselves what they believed was best for them. As we commemorate, Women’s Equality Day, please read the text of President Barack Obama’s Presidential Proclamation and never forget out sisters who fought long and hard so that we may have our freedom.

A PROCLAMATION BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

On Women’s Equality Day, we mark the anniversary of our Constitution’s 19th Amendment, which secured the right to vote for America’s women. The product of profound struggle and fierce hope, the 19th Amendment reaffirmed what we have always known: that America is a place where anything is possible and where each of us is entitled to the full pursuit of our own happiness. We also know that the defiant, can-do spirit that moved millions to seek suffrage is what runs through the veins of American history. It remains the wellspring of all our progress. And nearly a century after the battle for women’s franchise was won, a new generation of young women stands ready to carry that spirit forward and bring us closer to a world where there are no limits on how big our children can dream or how high they can reach.

To keep our Nation moving ahead, all Americans — men and women — must be able to help provide for their families and contribute fully to our economy. That is why I have made supporting the needs and aspirations of women and girls a top priority for my Administration. From signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law and creating the White House Council on Women and Girls to combatting sexual assault and promoting women’s economic and political empowerment at home and abroad, we have worked to ensure women have the opportunities they need and deserve at every stage of their lives. As women around the world continue to fight for their seat at the table, my Administration will keep their interests at the core of our policy decisions — and we will join them every step of the way.

Today, women are nearly 50 percent of our workforce, the majority of students in our colleges and graduate schools, and a growing number of breadwinners in their families. From business to medicine to our military, women are leading the fields that were closed off to them only decades ago. We owe that legacy of progress to our mothers and aunts, grandmothers and great-grandmothers — women who proved not only that opportunity and equality do not come without a fight, but also that they are possible. Even with the gains we have made, we still have work to do. As we mark this 92nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment, let us reflect on how far we have come toward fully realizing the basic freedoms enshrined in our founding documents, rededicate ourselves to closing the gaps that remain, and continue to widen the doors of opportunity for all of our daughters and sons.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim August 26, 2012, as Women’s Equality Day. I call upon the people of the United States to celebrate the achievements of women and recommit to realizing gender equality in this country.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh. Barack Obama

Welcome to golf in the 21st century

Well, let’s welcome the Augusta National Golf Club, the very private white man’s club, to the 21st century! It finally opened its doors to two very deserving women, Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and the first black Provost of Stanford University, and Darla Moore, VP of Rainwater, an investment company, and one of Fortune’s 50 most powerful American businesswomen. Rice and Moore made history as the first two women to join the hallowed ranks of this elitist club in which membership is by invitation only and through a private process. The club, which was established in 1933, prohibited not only women but also blacks. It was not until 1990 that the first black member was invited to join. How many other blacks are members? Hard to determine since their membership list is “secret.” Is the invitation to Rice and Moore just a token one? Hard to say, and only time will tell. Should Rice and Moore be belittled and condemned as some comments indicated in the blogosphere yesterday? Not at all. However, I would not classify it as one those significant moments in women’s fight for equality. As we have experienced throughout history, and I learned in depth writing Women Trailblazers of California: Pioneers to the Present, every small step counts. We must continue to break down the barriers and support the women who are in the forefront doing it. We all stand to gain. For more detailed information on this story see the New York Times article here. What do you think about this?

Who ruled the London Olympics? American women and Title IX

On the 40th anniversary of Title IX, American women showed the world how this one piece of legislation, which prohibited gender discrimination in school sports, changed the course for women’s participation in sports. The women at the London Olympics were superb. Of the 46 Gold Medals for Team USA, female athletes won 29, the men 17. The women also topped the men in overall medals earned, 58 to 46 for a total of 104 Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. Without women earning all these medals, the United States would have trailed China in total medal counts.

This definitely was the “year of the women” at the London Olympics. The US team was even nicknamed “Team Title IX.” American women were not the only dominating factor; there were over 5000 women athletes representing 200 countries, 44% of the total Olympians competing. The Russian and Chinese medal winners were also mostly women. What a tremendous role model for the girls and young women fortunate enough to witness this year’s women’s supremacy via Twitter, Facebook, and television to list a few avenues transmitting the latest competition results.
Yes, Title IX has been a fantastic success. Women’s participation in sports has increased 900% in public schools and 450% in collegiate sports since enactment of the law. Wonderful role models now exist for young women who at one time could only dream of playing sports and competing on such a high level. The US is the impetus for other countries to expand programs for their female students and cultivate future Olympians. Working together, women will become stronger and more dominant athletes.

However, there is still a gender gap. Of the 109 members of the International Olympic Committee, only 22 are women. This statistic must improve. There has to be total equality for women in all aspects of sports; in participation, management, and leadership. Please share your comments.

Are women stalled in the middle of the corporate ladder?

Women have risen rapidly in the business arena, but not quickly enough. The 2012 ranking of Fortune 500 corporations includes a record 18 companies headed by female CEO’s. This new high, however, translates into just 3.6 percent of the companies being led by women. If we take a positive view, we could interpret it as good news, because in 2002 and 2003, there were only seven Fortune 500 firms that had female CEO’s. Although we are moving, it is at a snail’s pace, and we have not made significant gains.

Another concern as noted in a Catalyst report in December of last year is about one in ten companies had no women serving on their boards. Furthermore, women of color still held only 3% of corporate board seats. Another fact, most of us know is that women earn less pay for men in comparable jobs and held only 7.5% of executive officer top-earner positions in 2011, while men accounted for 92.5% of top earners.

We now have to ask, is women’s leadership truly stalled and is anything being done to train and prepare a younger generation to take the reins of the larger corporations? There are definitely a larger number of younger women in the pipeline and on the career ladder to lead the top corporations. Let’s look at Marissa Mayer, the new CEO at Yahoo, and a perfect role model. The first woman engineer at Google, she was the driving force for most of their popular products. It is interesting to note she was six months pregnant when they chose her to lead the struggling company. Just a few years ago, this would have been unfathomable. Fortunately, there are more young women such as Mayer who are ready to step into leadership roles.

Where can look for a trend? Try the business schools. Although they are certainly top heavy in male deanships, they are moving in the direction of selecting more women to lead the schools as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article. Appointing women as deans has a positive value in many arenas; they have authority and contacts in the business word, they attract more women students, and they are living examples for the female students how women can influence the business world. As Linda Livingstone, dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management noted, the increasing number of women deans, just like the presence of women executives in the corporate world, “helps [students] to see the kind of things they can do and where they can go.” According to Fortune executive editor Stephanie Mehta, “The good news is that while we have 18 today, there’s a pipeline of women coming into leadership positions that’s very, very deep and very, very wide.”

As women, we must strive for parity and equality and continue to educate. With so many bright young women moving up the corporate ladder, this is the time for the business world to take every opportunity to enable them to move to the top rung. This includes both Fortune 500 and non-Fortune 500 companies. How wonderful women will be able to choose. Let me know what you think.

Best kept secret in San Diego

For the past year, I have had the privilege of being a board member of the Women’s Museum of California. When I first joined the board, I learned that we were one of only five women ‘s museums in the country. Can you imagine only five? Sadly, the Texas women’s museum has had to close its doors. Fortunately, our small but vibrant museum in San Diego is growing. We are now entering our 30th year, and in August, we are moving to a larger and lovely new location in an expanding cultural arts venue at NCT at Liberty Station in Point Loma.

The museum was founded by Mary B. Maschal and other women who realized that women were not included in the mainstream version of history. Maschal was passionate about the endeavor and devoted many years of her life collecting and preserving numerous historic artifacts that exemplify and document the life histories and achievements of many women, in both the United States and abroad. In 1983 she applied for non-profit status and named her body of work The Women’s History Reclamation Project (WHRP).

For the next fourteen years, Maschel created a living museum of women’s history in her own home, filling virtually every room with historic documents, banners, posters, and books. She and others also shared this archival collection through lectures on women’s history to school children, professional and social organizations, and community groups. After much prodding , Maschel permitted her home to function as the WHRP headquarters and invited the public to view exhibitions of her vast collection. So much excitement was generated by the archival holdings, that it became obvious that San Diego needed a museum dedicated solely to women and their stories.

In 1997, the WHRP moved into the second phase of its embryonic existence and relocated to the ART UNION Building in Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego; in December of 2003, the WHRP changed its name to the Women’s History Museum and Educational Center or WHM.

During the ensuing years, the WHM has blossomed into a full-fledged women’s history museum and valuable community educational resource. The energy within the walls of the small storefront is palpable; the exhibits inspiring, the historic clothing collection fascinating, the workshops and lectures great, and the staff and many volunteers who manage all these things are amazingly dedicated to its success. In addition, the staff develops and implements educational events including art shows, stages performance presentations, maintains a library and research archive, and provides speakers for the community through its Speaker’s Bureau.

In 2011 the name of the organization was changed to the Women’s Museum of California with the tag line “preserving the past…inspiring the future”. Now the museum is moving into its third phase. It has outgrown its small facility and is thrilled to be on the move to Liberty Station.

Learn more about the Women’s Museum of California click here.