As a women’s university with film programs at both the baccalaureate and master’s level, Mount Saint Mary’s has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to preparing women to excel in the traditionally male fields of filmmaking and media.
Over the past couple of years, the University’s baccalaureate film program has built on this reputation by creating a guest speaker series that showcases the experiences of professional women in a wide variety of roles related to the media and entertainment industry. “Women in Hollywood” began as an idea by Nicole Amber Haggard, PhD, who teaches in the Mount's Film, Media and Communication department, and whose research and teaching revolves around diversity and social justice in U.S. culture. She also works as a media diversity consultant.
In 2016, Haggard wrote a chapter on women's representation in film and media for that year's Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California, an annual research project published by the University's Center for the Advancement of Women.
"I was astounded by the statistics of gender disparity in the workforce and on-screen representation," Haggard says. "For instance, in 2016, out of the 1,438 people who worked on the 100 top films, women filled 17.8% of the jobs, while men filled 82.2%. On-screen, there were 2.2 male characters for every one female character, and women continue to make up about only 30% of all speaking characters. Plus, when we look at race and gender, women of color fare much worse than white women."
Taking action, Haggard organized the first "Women in Hollywood" guest speaker series for her Film 142 class that same year. The series proved so popular and successful that the department has made it a staple, and Haggard is expanding its reach this year.
"The vision for the 'Women in Hollywood' course is to introduce our students to amazing women who work in Hollywood, and to shed light on the gender disparities in the industry -- as well as the many opportunities in the movement towards equality," she says. "The goal is to get students thinking deeply about how the representation of women in the media impacts the world around us."
The 2018 “Women in Hollywood” series at Chalon kicks off Jan. 17 and runs through April – and this time, the series isn’t just for students enrolled in Haggard’s class. All students, staff and alums of the University are invited to attend as long as they RSVP in advance. Selected talks are also open to the public.
The lineup this year features directors, producers, screenwriters, executive, agents and activists who all share a passion for shifting the representation of women and girls in media. Among this year's speakers are Emmy winners, Mount alumnae and industry changemakers, including women at foundations, nonprofits and other advocacy organizations working to advance women and diversity in the film and media industry.
The series enables students to not just learn from industry insiders, but also to exchange ideas and network with these guest speakers. That interaction has inspired some students’ career paths, and has even led to internship and possible job opportunities.
"The class not only introduces our students to women in Hollywood, it introduces Hollywood to our students," Haggard says. "Everyone who comes to campus falls in love with our students, their passion to use media to change the world, and their leadership skills."
Just last year, students who participated in the series were able to land internships with networks, TV shows, studios, development companies and advocacy groups such as CBS, “The Late, Late Show with James Corden,” Wise Entertainment, Picture Motion and Women Occupy Hollywood, among others.
"As a woman I am empowered to leave my own print in a field that’s considered to be male dominated," says Elizabeth Cruz Sanchez '20. "Having guest speakers allows us to make connections with others within the film industry but they also inspire us to work hard and create content that will make changes that will create a positive impact in people’s lives."
The season’s lineup is listed below, with additional speakers to be confirmed. Check our Events listings in the Mount Newsroom for the most up-to-date information throughout the semester. Information is also available there on how to RSVP for each talk.
Women in Hollywood 2018 speaker series dates:
Jan. 17: Michelle Edgar, founder and CEO of The XX Project; agent at ICM Partners
Jan. 24: Cheryl Quintana Leader, founder of IndiVision2000
Jan. 31: Alicia Malone, host of Fandango Indie Movie Guide and FilmStruck by Criterion; author of “Backwards and in Heels: The Past, Present and Future of Women Working in Film.”
Feb. 7: Mary-Kate FitzPatrick ’13, Studio 10 producer and MSMU alumna
Feb. 14: Ivana Massetti, filmmaker and founder of Women Occupy Hollywood
Feb. 21: Women’s Media Action Coalition, including task force leader Caroline Heldman, PhD, who is featured in MissRepresentation and is lead reseracher for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary's University
Feb. 28: Sarah Moshman, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and creator of The Empowerment Project
March 14: Emma Reeves, executive director, Free the Bid
March 21: Sheila Cameron, artist and writer; Tabby Biddle and Elisa Parker, project directors and leadership ambassadors of Take the Lead: 50 Women Can Change the World in Media & Entertainment
March 28: Jenelle Riley, screenwriter, actress, journalist, producer; host of Variety's "Actors on Actors”
April 4: CBS On Tour, panel of executives from CBS Entertainment Diversity and Inclusion
April 11: Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University
April 18: Christina Lindstrom, Lindstrom Impact Strategies; former senior director of strategy and impact for Participant Media
April 25: Wise Entertainment, panel of executives from the Emmy-nominated entertainment company run by women and producing content for women and underserved, underrepresented audiences