By Emma Mayerson, Development Assistant
“I decided to be an actress and moved to Hollywood. When I got there, an agent told me I would have greater success if I took my Stanford MBA off my resume and lied about my age,” Jennifer Siebel Newsom told the audience at the Women’s Foundation of California’s premiere event of our new Amazing Women, Inspiring Stories speakers’ series. Each event in the series will feature two successful, powerful and inspirational women in conversation. For our launch event we featured Jennifer Siebel Newsom, director of Miss Representation, in conversation with Dr. Kathy Magliato, one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the world and author of Heart Matters. Kimberly Freeman, Director of Community Relations for Southern California Gas Company, moderated the conversation.
“I am glad you said that,” responded Dr. Magliato, “because I have experienced it too. When I walk into work wearing a skirt, everyone treats me as if my IQ dropped 40 points.” Both film and surgery are male-dominated fields with few women role models or mentors available to help colleagues navigate sexist attitudes and behaviors. For Dr. Magliato, this meant she had to learn to demand respect from her male colleagues, regardless of her attire, on her own.
While in Hollywood, Ms. Siebel Newsom decided that if no one else was taking a stand against the disempowering images and representations of women in mainstream media– she would. So Ms. Siebel Newsom wrote, directed and produced Miss Representation. She hopes her film will change media messaging so that her two-year old daughter Montana will not face the bigotry and obstacles she did.
I found it empowering to hear stories of women who had the radical imagination to believe in themselves, despite a lack of role models and support. However, their stories also highlight the need for a supportive community of women leaders who work together to change these realities. The Amazing Women, Inspiring Stories speaking series seeks to bring women together, and build a supportive community where they can talk about both the obstacles women leaders face as well as strategies for overcoming them.
Over 200 women and men from industries across Los Angeles attended our launch event. I hope that Ms. Siebel Newsom and Dr. Magliato’s conversation inspired guests to continue discussing these issues at their dinner tables, among friends and in the workplace. For information about our next event in the series please visit us here.