15.10.13

Geena Davis and The Canadian Women's Foundation

by Christina Rowsell 
The Brighter Side

She's an award winning actress in movies like "Beetlejuice", "A League of Their Own" and "Thelma & Louise", to name a few. Geena Davis is also the founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM), which works to combat the unequal portrayal of women in media through extensive research and education. 

Davis was in Calgary in support of the Canadian Women's Foundation for the Calgary Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency. This morning alone, an incredible $620,000 was raised. Davis also wrote out her own personal cheque to make a donation. Funds raised will help the Canadian Women's Foundation fund life-changing programs that empower low income women to move out of poverty and into confidence! And at the start of the breakfast we were giving the run down of what this means. Their commitment is to not only help women and children, but to educate. Educate women and children, but to educate you and I. 

1.) Stop the Violence - At the Canadian Women’s Foundation, they want every woman to live free from violence. 
2.) End Poverty - At the Canadian Women’s Foundation, they want every low-income woman to have the chance to move herself and her children out of poverty. 
3.) Empower Girls - At the Canadian Women’s Foundation, we want every girl to believe in herself and realize she matters.

And who better to get the word out than Geena Davis. Who too has been working tirelessly on her own organization the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at http://www.seejane.org/ - Improving Gender Portrayals in Children's Media. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating a wide variety of female characters for entertainment targeting children 11 and under. 

I was a bit in awe watching the actress speak this morning. I mean, come on... she's Geena Davis. They listed off the movies she'd done and I've seen almost all of them! And once she began to speak she, for me, turned into a real person. Not to say I don't still see her as a star, but I love that moment when a celebrity becomes just like the rest of us. Telling stories of her childhood and making her way in her chosen field of work. And in that field of work, being an actress, that's when she was awaken to the lack of female roles in the media, especially in children's television programming.

Davis went on to tell a story where judges attempted to hold gender-blind auditions for their orchestra but were put off by the sound of the female musicians’ heels. When the women auditioned walking out onto the stage with heels on, the results were skewed in favor of male musicians. BUT, when the women took their shoes off the final results were equally split between men and women. WHAT!? I was shocked to hear this. To be honest with you, when I hear a pair of heels coming down the hallway I think, power, confidence and presence. 

(My own side story about heels here: I was in my early 30's working at a radio station with an amazing woman who co-hosted the morning show. Every time I saw her, either at work or out in the public I noticed how beautifully she dressed, right down to her high heels. I already respected her, but I admired her more for making the effort to look her best and that included her heels. (say what you will about the health problems related to wearing heels). But those heels really showed me her strength, her courage, her beauty AND her confidence. And since working with this beautiful and talented woman I wear heels everyday. (Unless of course flip-flops are appropriate! LOL). 

So when I heard this story that women had to take their heels off to make it into the orchestra, it blew me away. So what kind of message are we sending our children? In Geena Davis’ opinion, the best way to change bias against women is to change the representations from the source. Suggesting that the Media itself can be the starting point in fixing the problems it’s creating. And hopefully, being in the media I can help paint that picture. 

I do think we are making strides, but we have a long way to go. Canadian Business just published The Power 50 - Canada's Most Powerful Business People August 2013. See the story here, - and on that list only 2 are women. That's 8%!! 6th Place is Julie Dickson - Superintendent, Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Age 56 and in 24th spot is Heather Reisman - CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc., Age 65. WOW! Only 2 women out of 25 made the list. My question is why? What stops women from getting to the top? 

I certainly know many successful business women. They may not make millions, but they have passion and drive for what they do. We should celebrate them all! I might just do my own list of business women who make a difference in our own city. I'll work on that. This way we can start celebrating the accomplishments of beautiful and talented women just because they are just that. It's not about how much money they make, but about the difference they make. And mentioned before, it starts with you. You standing up and believing what women have to offer. "Helping women and girls is not only the right thing to do, it's an intelligent investment in a better future." ~ Canadian Women's Foundation - www.canadianwomen.org

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