Mount Saint Mary’s University, an L.A-based women’s university, released new gender research yesterday at a public event that drew more than 1,000 people to hear speakers such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Sheryl WuDunn and Academy Award-winner Geena Davis.
The 2015 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California is released annually to shed light on conditions that affect the more than 19 million women and girls who live within the nation’s largest state. For the first time, this year’s report also included global comparisons to assess resources and opportunities for women around the world.
“This report reveals real achievements that we can celebrate,” said Mount Saint Mary’s President Ann McElaney-Johnson, “including, for instance, the economic power of California’s women, who run more than 1 million businesses that generate nearly $200 billion in revenue.
“But when the face of poverty is still a woman’s face, when women don’t earn equal pay for equal work, when women are much more likely to be trafficked, abused, marginalized and denied their basic human rights, we cannot say that our work is done.”
Thought leaders, public policymakers and trailblazing activists discussed the report’s findings during Thursday’s event, which took place at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Keynote speaker Sheryl WuDunn – a Pulitzer Prize-winner and co-author of “Half the Sky” and “A Path Appears” – shared how innovation is helping to transform the lives of women and girls living in poverty worldwide.
“Charity is in need of a revolution,” she said. “There’s a huge spectrum of social innovation out there. Without change, without risk-taking, you won’t have innovation that makes a difference.”
Geena Davis, the Academy Award-winning actor and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University, talked about the need for more women in key behind-the-scenes jobs in film and television. She also noted why it’s vital for female characters to be seen in a variety of on-screen roles.
“How can a young girl aspire to something if she’s never seen it before?” Davis asked. “If she can see it, she can be it. But right now, the percentage of fictional women filling leadership roles in on-screen workplaces is even less than in real life.”
Amy Elaine Wakeland, First Lady of the city of Los Angeles and a leading advocate for women and children, detailed how L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration is bringing to light gender gaps that exist within the nation’s second-largest city: “Our work is driven by the belief that if inequality isn’t being measured, it isn’t being remedied.”
During Thursday’s event, President McElaney-Johnson also announced that Mount Saint Mary’s is launching a Center for the Advancement of Women. The center will serve as a year-round community resource and as a hub for research, education and action on issues that affect women and girls – locally, nationally and globally.