Media powerhouse Tina Brown packed some star attractions into the first Women In The World Summit on Canadian soil — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and actor/director Angelina Jolie all graced the stage at the Art Gallery of Ontario yesterday to talk feminism, how women are portrayed in media, and the importance of women’s stories in film. But the real fire power came from the less-familiar names on the ticket. Leaders in tech, advertising, activism, law, media, and people who have overcome unimaginable tragedy spoke openly and honestly about the extreme highs and unbelievable lows in their lives and careers, with sometimes surprising candour. Here are 7 incredible women who didn’t hold back.
The Newfoundlander and Founder and CCO of New York-based advertising agency Badger & Winters launched a campaign called #WomenNotObjects that went viral last year. An industry leader in creating advertising that shatters long-held gender stereotypes, she spoke on a panel about the objectification of women in the media.
On her early career in advertising: “I’ve had my own advertising agency for 25 years. And before I started that agency, I did the Marky Mark and Kate Moss campaign. So I made Kate Moss skinnier. … In other words, I was a culprit, for many years. And I didn’t understand the harm I was causing. After a few years . . . we decided to do something about it [and launched #WomenNotObjects]. We had about 45 million views and reached over 175 different countries, all with a budget of about $5000.”
From East Prairie Metis Settlement in Alberta, Supernault is a Metis Cree actress, activist and founder of Next Gen Productions, a boutique film and TV production company dedicated to fostering diversity in storytelling. She spoke on a panel about the objectification of women in the media.
On how sports leads to confidence: “I would tell anyone who listens to put your children into sports. I grew up doing taekwondo, basketball, volleyball . . . and my dad taught me how to hunt and trap when I was younger. It gave me a very solid sense of confidence to know that in spite of anything I might be going through off the court, I knew that I could dominate on the court. And that gives you a certain kind of swagger, even at a young age.”
O’Neill is a documentary filmmaker, the executive producer of non-profit media company The Working Group, and leader of Not In Our Town, a national movement to stop hate and bullying, and promote safe communities on a local level. She spoke on a panel about fighting hatred in the U.S.
On the rise of hate crimes in the U.S. “I think we’re fighting for the soul of our country . . . because of the legacy of racism in our country, and how vulnerable we are. Because this infection is not just about this violent eruption of hate that we saw in Charlottesville, it’s how it’s spreading. The Southern Poverty Law Centre showed that in the weeks after the election, the number one spot where hate incidents occurred was K-12 schools. It is infecting our children. We have to take hold of this, right here, right now.”
Sanders’s son and aunt were killed when white supremacist Dylan Roof opened fire at their church in Charleston, South Carolina. She has since founded the Tywanza Sanders Legacy Foundation, and spoke on a panel about fighting hatred in the U.S.
On the aftermath of Charleston: “I refuse to be afraid of 20-year-old white boys. I refuse to be in this box. . . . Let’s erase racism. And the only way we’re going to erase racism is by getting to know one another. . . . It doesn’t matter what area you’re from, it doesn’t matter what colour you are, we all bleed red blood.”
The renowned tech journalist and executive editor of Recode spoke on a panel about busting up bro culture.
On reporting on the bro-y environment in Silicon Valley: “It’s a sausage fest. It’s quite astonishing. . . . Every woman in Silicon Valley has a story [of sexual harassment or gender discrimination], from the small to the large. Every good man I knew was like, “Well I had no idea.” They sounded like my 15-year-old son. “Wha? I didn’t know!” What is happening with that disconnect?”
The president of Mallory Consulting, activist and co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, spoke on a panel about bro culture.
On organizing the women’s march: “We had men calling us, saying, ‘You can’t do this, you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not capable of pulling off something of this magnitude, and so you should bring us on board’… so yeah, bro culture is a real thing. The first thing we said was, We’re qualified, and second of all, we’re just going to show you. So you sit down and wait, and we’ll show you. And then 5 million people marched across the world.”
Founder of The Bloom Firm, a feminist law firm based in California, Bloom represented (free of charge) the women who accused Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment. She spoke on a panel about bro culture.
On the responsibility to speak out about harassment: “We just want to have our jobs. We just want to succeed at work. We don’t want to be bothered. Most of us don’t sign up to be feminist firebrands, I get it, but when our time comes, we have to stand up. Think of the people on the panel before us [like Sanders] who, god forbid, had family members murdered, and they’ve become such tremendous activists. If they can do what they do every day, I think we can stand up to sexual harassment.”