The Brett Kavanaugh hearings hung like a dark cloud over Hollywood’s first ever Pay Equity Summit, held today in Burbank. More than 300 attended.
“The hearings were exhausting, emotional and sometimes I was so angry I wanted to throw things at the television,” said summit moderator Tema Staig, executive director of Women in Media. Even so, she said, “It was a week that saw that those who attempt to diminish women are dinosaurs, and we all know what happened to dinosaurs.”
“People need to step up and be heroes,” she continued in her opening remarks, praising the two women who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in the elevator shortly before he called for an FBI investigation into allegations hanging over Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.
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“We made some small steps in the delay of an accused molester to a really high job,” she said.
Turning to the issue of underpaid women in Hollywood, Staig asked: “What is it about our country that encourages such inequity? Why are women paid less than their male counterparts?”
“The numbers don’t lie,” she said, pointing to studies that show that women are paid less than men in the industry and nationwide. “We are not valued the same as men.”
How to rectify that imbalance was the overarching theme of the summit, although recent attempts to have the IATSE address pay inequity at the bargaining table have largely failed.
Leslie Simon, business rep of IATSE Script Supervisors Local 871, said that management still isn’t getting the message. “Unfortunately, they don’t take us seriously,” she said. “They don’t take our local seriously.”
Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of the Cinematographers Guild, said from the audience that pay equity is not so much of an issue at her guild than is “access and opportunity for women and minority members.” She adds that “if the conversation is only about gender, we are missing a large part of the problem.”
Melissa Goodman, director of advocacy at ACLU Southern California, noted that the studios need to do three things to become inclusive: Actively prioritize the problem, set concrete hiring targets, and remain vigilant against harassment and stereotyping.
Goodman also said that the EEOC is still investigating the ACLU’s complaint that women directors after systemically discriminated against. She said the ACLU’s efforts to get inclusion provisions written into California’s film incentives program “were not super-successful,” but said that’s an area that is still being pursued.
Kathy Connell, executive producer of the SAG Awards, said that the guild has new contract language that includes eliminating auditions in hotel rooms. Connell added that the union is now looking at new rules governing nudity. She also said that voting is essential and urged everyone to vote in the coming midterms and to call their family and friends in other states to vote too.
Marisa Shipley, chair of Reel Equity, said that “HBO says it’s fixed pay equity, but that is definitely not the case for below-the-line people.”
Nithya Raman, executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment, noted that her Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund has raised $22 million to battle sexual harassment and referred nearly 4,000 cases to attorneys.
Other speakers included Alison Emilio, director of ReFrame; set decorator Kelly Berry; costume designer Betty Madden, production coordinator Sara Chaiken, and animation color stylist Elisa Phillips.
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