Power Women Summit 2019: Follow the Live Blog

Hundreds of Hollywood’s most influential women gather in Santa Monica for two days of conversations, workshops and networking

Last Updated: October 28, 2019 @ 12:24 PM

Welcome to the live blog for WrapWomen’s Power Women Summit, located at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica from Oct. 24-25. The summit brings together thousands of the industry’s most influential women for conversations, workshops and networking — and features appearances by Eva Longoria, Gigi Gorgeous, Nicole Richie and Sophia Bush.

If you missed the summit’s featured conversations with the actress Chrissy Metz and the congressional candidate Cori Bush yesterday, catch up on our coverage here.

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Ellie Wen and Karen Bailey at the power women summit 2019

Doc Filmmakers on Sharing Real Women’s Stories Through Short Films

Thursday’s programming also closed out with a screening of short films that are finalists in WrapWomen and Starz’s Telling Our Stories film contest. The films focused on topics like the societal expectations surrounding breasts, how female graffiti artists are creating art in a male-dominated field, the connection made between a nail technician and a client at a nail salon in New York, and the story of a female firefighter working in San Francisco.

Following the screenings, filmmakers from four of the six films — Ellie Wen, Jana Otte, Crystal Kayiza, and Alexandra Henry — spoke with Karen Bailey, Starz’s senior vice president of original programming, about the inspiration behind their respective works and their decision to work within a short film format.

Kayiza, the director behind “See You Next Time,” said that she scoured Brooklyn’s nail salons to find the subjects for her short film on the relationship between an East Asian nail technician, Judy, and a black client, Ariana. She said she wanted to depict the connection between two women of color that weren’t dependent on their identities being placed in opposition to white women — relationships she felt she rarely saw on screen.

“There’s a lot of shaming particularly with black women, on self-care,” Kayiza said.

Henry, who directed “Street Heroines,” said she first became inspired to show the lives of female graffiti artists when she visited Sao Paulo several years ago. She came across the work of a Brazilian street artist, and the two of them eventually struck up a friendship as Henry began working on her film.

“The women she puts on the street is a complete counter to the women portrayed in Brazilian media,” Henry said of the artist’s work. The short film, she said, is just part of a longer version that she’s in post-production for.

For her film about a female firefighter, “25 Hours,” Wen said she looking to portray a woman in a more multi-dimensional way — a hero who put out fighters but also came home and took care of her family.

The grand prize winner of the contest, which will be chosen by a group of jurors and announced later on Friday, will receive distribution for their film on Starz and a prize of $10,000. – J. Clara Chan

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(From top left clockwise): Anna Nimiriano, Anna Babinets, Lucía Pineda, Liz Sly and Nastya Stanko

Award-Winning Journalists on Reporting in Countries With ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Corrupt’ Governments

A group of award-winning female journalists from around the globe spoke about the struggles they face reporting in countries with “dangerous” and “corrupt” governments.

TheWrap founder and editor in chief Sharon Waxman moderated a panel presented by the International Women’s Media Foundation, which recently honored journalists Anna Nimiriano, Anna Babinets, Nastya Stanko, Liz Sly and Lucinda Pineda for their work.

“I’m doing this because, if anything happened in the newspaper, I’m responsible,” said Anna Nimiriano, the founder and editor in chief of the Juba Monitor, a leading daily newspaper in South Sudan. “And in the process of doing all this work, I’m being threatened, I’m being harassed almost every day because the country is not free to a point where journalists cannot do their work.”

Nimiriano said that sometimes, the government’s “security” is deployed to go through her newspaper’s work before it is published — resulting in officials warning them: “No, don’t publish this. If you publish this, you will face the consequences.”

Anna Babinets, the editor in chief and co-founder of the independent investigative journalism agency Slidstvo.Info, based in Kyiv, Ukraine, said on the advice she gives her reporters on the dangers they may face on the job: “It’s part of our work. If you get it, we will work [together]. If not, I’m sorry.” –Jennifer Maas

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Ava Greenfield, Stephanie Allain and Bryan Smiley at the Power Women Summit 2019

Hollywood Producers, Agents on How to Ensure Inclusion 

Top Hollywood agents, producers and TV showrunners on Friday shared their ideas on how to ensure inclusion in all areas of the industry and how there has been a slow and steady change for minorities. 

“You just have to be vocal and loud enough to be inclusive,” VP of Creative Development & Production at Columbia Pictures Bryan Smiley said during the “Championing Change in Hollywood” breakout session at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit in Santa Monica. “Don’t be shy about it, don’t sugarcoat it — sometimes you don’t have the ally, but if you don’t, taking a stand for what you believe is necessary, or else change will never happen.”

Fellow panelists Homegrown Pictures founder Stephanie Allain, ICM literary agent Ava Greenfield, showrunner and writer Gloria Calderón and disability lifestyle influencer and actress Lolo Spencer agreed that it’s OK to admit when you don’t know something, as long as we are constantly willing to learn and educate ourselves about inclusion.

“White people aren’t the only ones who have biases — we all do,” Allain said. “Educate yourselves, understand that bias is real and that we all have it and then you’re in a place to start.”

“We’re all ignorant about something but opening yourself to learning… I learn something new every day,” Calderón said. “We’re going to make mistakes along the way. Ignorance is OK as long as we are trying to learn. I think it’s OK for us to educate one another as well.”

And everyone agreed change is happening, although Calderón said the situation for Latinos in Hollywood was “still dire.”

“With regard to disability, I’m starting to see [change] but would love for it to continue to happen on greater and bigger scales,” Spencer, who uses a wheelchair, said.

Greenfield added: “There are eight female black agents at ICM Partners — that is gigantic. I have been the only one in the room many times and i can’t get over the fact that there are eight of us at one company, that’s a huge change. That sense of community helps us extend that hand to young assistants and find those folks to replenish us.”

Melissa Silverstein, founder of Women and Hollywood, moderated the panel. –Beatrice Verhoeven

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Aimee Allison and Alysia Reiner at the Power Women Summit 2019

She the People President Calls for Intersectional Feminist Activism Before 2020 Election

Aimee Allison, the founder and president of the political advocacy group She the People, had a “bitter pill” to share with the audience at the “Women Who Lead” breakout session at WrapWomen’s Power Women Summit on Friday.

“We have to recognize how powerful women of color are in our electorate, and we have to belay this phrase which is called the ‘women’s movement.’ The women’s movement does not exist,” Allison said. “Race is the biggest determinant in how people vote.”

“White women who have defined what’s been considered the women’s movement have to understand that women of color — black women, Asian American women, Latinas, Muslims, indigenous women — have a set of politics that’s based on justice that is racial, economic, and gender justice,” she continued. “And the reason I explain that is if we understand the complexity of the women’s movement, we can actually organize differently and have different goals that makes everyone visible, seen, and heard. This is going to be critical for 2020.”

“Orange Is the New Black” actress Alysia Reiner, who was also a featured speaker at the session, addressed the power of inclusion in entertainment as a way to empower younger generations to enter and thrive in leadership positions. “Every time we see women leading in our stories, it lets the next generation know it can lead too, and every time we see women of color leading in our stories, it lets the next generation know they can do that too,” Reiner said. “Having that imagination is everything in this moment.” –J. Clara Chan

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Karen Appleton Page, Dr. Knatokie Ford and Sarah Bond at the power women summit 2019

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome in the Tech Industry

Sarah Bond, the head of global gaming partnerships and business development at Xbox and Microsoft, has a “simple mind trick” for helping her overcome imposter syndrome within the predominantly white and male-dominated tech industry.

Speaking at the “STEM & Storytelling” breakout session at the Power Women Summit on Friday, Bond recalled hearing on NPR how black women earned 60% of what their peers did for the exact same work.

“I remember feeling really angry,” Bond said. “Then I realized that I can flip it. You know what? If I am doing the same job as my peer, it must also mathematically be true that I must be that much better. I had to fight through so much more to get to that place. This isn’t imposter syndrome — you’ve way, way, way over-earned that position where you are.”

“It’s just math,” Bond added to audience laughter.

Knatokie Ford, a former senior policy adviser in the Obama administration and a biomedical scientist, said she also believed it was important to be more “honest about the process” and talk about the struggles that go alongside pursuing careers in STEM.

“Many times, kids get to these spaces and it might be hard at first. They feel this intimidation and they see that as an automatic cue that, oh, this must mean this is not for me,” Ford said. “In reality, everyone has to work at it to be good or to become an expert level at some point.”

Pursuing a career in science “involves a lot of failure,” Ford noted. “I had to get out of the habit of comparing myself to other people [and instead] only look at myself and my own personal progress as a way of measuring my own success. And then to just be kind to myself to say that you’re in school to learn. You don’t have to know everything, but there’s nothing that you cannot learn at the same time.” –J. Clara Chan

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Joanna McFarland and Beatriz Acevedo at the Power Women Summit 2019

Mitú Co-Founder on How to Change Investment Culture: ‘You Need to Go in With White Man Swagger’

Beatriz Acevedo, the co-founder of media company Mitú and the president of the Acevedo Foundation, wants investors and entrepreneurs to know that “diversity is not charity.”

“Diversity is an incredible opportunity to superserve the demo that has not been seen and don’t think they belong in their own country that have a huge purchasing company,” Acevedo said at a Friday panel at the Power Women Society presented by PledgeLA. “And it is those people who are going to know how to superserve that underserved company.”

She also told audience members from underrepresented communities that they had to use their difference as a form of power when entering spaces that have long been inhabited by white men. “That attitude of never feeling less, but always knowing you’re more because of your struggle, where you come from, the color of your skin, your disability, whatever it is, that’s powerful. when you walk in, show that that’s what you bring to the table,” Acevedo said. “You need to go in there with white man swagger.”

Acevedo was joined on the panel by Alison Lange Engel, a venture partner at Greycroft; Joanna McFarland, co-founder and CEO of HopSkipDrive; and Fatima Husain, an investor at Comcast Ventures. They each discussed the benefits of growing a business in Los Angeles, offered advice on how to create relationships with investors and emphasized the need for investors and entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups to support one another.

McFarland said she’d observed how men wouldn’t be deterred by “loose connections” with investors and still have the confidence to reach out to them. “Fundamentally, most people want to help,” McFarland said, “and so that completely changed the way that I think about networking.”

Lange Engel noted how amplifying different perspectives at a community could be key to helping understand user behavior, but that most investors had to let go of their biases in supporting the people were most similar to them. “I think one of the biggest challenges is this notion of having a track record,” Lange Engel said. “We have to change that narrative completely because there are plenty of other groups of men that are funded without a track record.”

Husain said that for women and people of color who have gotten into positions of power, it was crucial that they made sure to support other underrepresented entrepreneurs. “You want to make sure that you’re investing in opportunities that bring up products and companies and services for the world, not for one audience,” Husain said. “Whether that’s a hire you’re making or a promotion that you’re making, or a company that you’re funding — it still has to be stellar, [but] all of us have the capability of doing that.” –J. Clara Chan

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Top Showtime Executives Talk Gender Equality and Mentorship – Including Learning What ‘You’re Not Gonna Do’

Four of Showtime’s most senior female executives gathered for a conversation with TheWrap’s Jennifer Maas touting the cable network as a rare example of a workplace where everyone’s opinions are valued equally — and what their mentorship experiences were like when they first got started in the industry. Jana Winograde, who shares the title co-president of entertainment with Gary Levine, spoke about gender equality at Showtime.

“I would say that we’re probably the best example, and I don’t think it’s always about equality in a tit-for-tat way. It’s, ‘Are like people treated like?’ My experience has been that that’s a yes,” Winograde said. “It’s not very hierarchical, so everybody’s opinion is heard in a very similar way, which is rare. If you’re in a creative meeting, everybody’s opinion is asked for whether they’re on that project or not, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman or SVP or EVP or the president or the director. Everybody’s opinion is welcome.”

The executives also discussed the mentors who helped them early on in their careers. Amy Britt, senior vice president of talent and casting at Showtime, credited Jane Jenkins and Janet Herschinsen, “who were huge casting directors in the ’80s and ’90s, and I kind of willed them to be my mentors, so much that I lived on the East Coast and I moved to L.A. ’cause I read an article on them and was like, ‘I’m gonna work for them.’ And when I got here and picked up the yellow pages and called them, they agreed to meet with me and give a job. They also, beyond being extraordinarily talented and iconic, they were incredible people and I’m so grateful for them.”

Amy Israel, Showtime’s executive vice president of scripted programming, recalled how at age 26 she ran acquisitions (with now-producer Jason Blum) for Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. “A lot of my mentors, it comes from looking up and figuring out what you’re gonna emulate and what you’re not gonna do. I would say that a lot of my mentors, I’ve always surrounded myself with incredible colleague,” she said. “I have a fierce family, I’m still friends with assistants that I was with 25 years ago.”

Johanna Fuentes, executive vice president of communications at Showtime, noted, “What I’ve discovered over the course of my career is having managers that supported me doing my whole self, especially in the comms team, being somebody who is loud and has an opinion, who disagrees. Having a relationship at work where you can be your whole self and not shut down — I’ve been very fortunate to have managers who are very supportive of what you have to say.”  –Margeaux Sippell

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Nancy Josephson, Jennifer Caserta, Cara Stein, Alicin Reidy Williamson and Dalana Brand at the Power Women Summit 2019

Hollywood Executives Talk How to Improve Company Culture: ‘These Are Human Issues’

Hollywood has seen a shakeup in the last two years in the wake of sexual harassment accusations and the subsequent #MeToo movement, so companies have been taking initiatives to make company culture better for all their employees. 

“These are human issues — societal issues. We have to realize we’re in this together and get together, arm in arm and make a difference,” Dalana Brand, vice president of people experience an head of inclusion and diversity at Twitter, said Friday at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit in Santa Monica. “Our inclusion efforts try to reflect who we are as a company. We want to make them feel like they belong. What we do is have flock talks, where our employees who we call tweeps have the opportunity to have the conversation with leadership in the company and share their impact.”

Cara Stein, SVP and chief talent officer at NBCUniversal, added that everything that’s happened in the world has been a reckoning for corporate America and certainly the media, and we’ve put laser focus on how to create a safe and respectable workforce, so that people have multiple ways to report something they don’t feel comfortable with.”

She added that NBCUniversal’s family-leave policy offers benefits that extend beyond the baby period and helps employees who take care of elderly parents, disabled kids or struggle to pay for their children’s education: “In a company, you have to look up and ask what’s going on in your life in all stages.” The company also puts aside three jobs every hiring cycle for people who have been out of the workforce to take care of kids.

AMC Networks Chief Transformation and People Officer Jennifer Caserta has seen “a real difference” at her organization. “We’ve made great improvements in the area — we’re a 50/50 company so I’m really proud. We are increasing our recruiting, hiring people who have diverse backgrounds and we’ve see an uptick in recruiting people in the past three years. We have a long way to go and we need to keep at it. It’s really just the beginning.”

Alicin Reidy, chief inclusion officer at Endeavor, agreed: “When do we get to say we’ve done some incredible work? What gets measured really gets down to how we’re harassing that energy around empower.” 

Marva Smalls, who serves as EVP and global head of inclusion strategy at Viacom, also took part in the panel on Friday, and spoke to TheWrap’s CEO and Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman earlier this month about her ambitious initiative to create the culture of inclusion. “Here we at Viacom we believe in everyday inclusion, so it isn’t to suggest we are one week and done,” she said. “It was for us to create moments of authentic conversations with our employees. To have those ‘aha’ moments, to understand and begin to deal with disruption to your own biases that you may not even think about.” –Beatrice Verhoeven

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Ivy Kagan Bierman at the Power Women Summit 2019

Top Entertainment Lawyers Share Strategies for Salary Negotiation

Three of Hollywood’s most experienced negotiators on Friday shared their thoughts on navigating pay disparities in the entertainment industry. The key takeaways for women in the industry during a packed room at Wrap Women’s Power Women Summit: transparency and solidarity.

Debbie White, vice-chair of music practice at Loeb & Loeb LLP, emphasized the impact of sharing salary information with similarly situated colleagues. “The more information that we share with each other, the better we’re all going to do,” White said. “Because if you don’t tell your fellow women what you’re actually making because you’re worried that then they’re going to make more than you, we’re not going to get anywhere.”

Even though asking for a higher salary can be fear-inducing, labor lawyer  Bierman recommended reframing the conversation as a social issue rather than a personal one. “Think about it like this: You’re not just doing it for you. You’re doing it for every other woman, every other person of color. It makes it easier to push harder, because it’s not just about you,” said Kagan Bierman, who frequently works on guild and union matters as a partner at Loeb & Loeb LLP.

NBC News correspondent Jo Ling Kent moderated the panel, which also included Greenberg Glusker LLP attorney Bonnie Eskenazi. –Kylie Harrington

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