In the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, citizens across America were activated like never before. The result of a man who openly-bragged about sexual assault and spent his entire campaign denigrating minorities and women was people at the grassroots level forming alliances, marching in the streets, organizations with the determination to take back the country from bigotry, hatred and fear.
Following on from this we have also seen (most notably) the tech world and Hollywood have its own watershed moment, with numerous high-profile men being exposed for years of sexual harassment, rape, assault and generally abusive behavior toward especially women (there have been a number of male victims also speaking out). The message is loud and clear: it’s time for women to take the reigns and time for the patriarchy to die out altogether.
But you don’t have to look far to see that there are women who have been laying the groundwork for a new type of leadership for a number of years. Whether they are political initiatives encouraging women to run for office, which we have seen come to fruition on election day 2017, or the numerous women in STEM initiatives which are chipping away at the disparity seen at the highest level, women are making inroads. In Hollywood, there has been a slow and steady build-up of women raising their voices, sharing their stories and fighting a system that has been very male-driven since the beginning.
We’re excited about Gloria Feldt’s Take The Lead organization launching their ’50 Women Can’ program which is all about gathering a group of 50 influential women in media and entertainment to change the status quo in terms of decision-making and creating opportunities for other, up-and-coming women. They are accepting nominations until December 10, 2017.
Another organization we recently stumbled across is called The XX Project. It has been around for more than 4 years and has been busy gathering female leaders from across a number of creative industries to connect with each other and promote empowerment in the workplace. The XX Project was started by Hollywood agent Michelle Edgar, who works with a number of high-profile musicians, bands, and brands for ICM. The mission behind it was to help women realize there is strength in numbers.
“Women tend to think of other women as competitors rather than allies, but together, we are stronger. The XX Project maximizes your network and leverages your skills to empower yours and one another’s business. We are your support network in both personal and professional endeavors,” says the website.
Past speakers have included women such as journalist Soledad O’Brien, Lavinia Errico the Founder of Equinox, Gayle Troberman the CMO of Heart Media, singer Eve, and CEO of BeautyCon Moj Mahdara. The events range from cocktail parties to retreats, and being a member of TXXP ($300 USD a year) also gives you access to a wide variety of networking and potential career-building opportunities.
In the same way men often talk about “doing business” while on the golf course or in other settings outside the workplace, what Michelle created is a way for women to gather but also potentially find work opportunities. This is one of the major parts missing for women in media and entertainment, as we have seen numerous women being cornered by predatory men in power when they try to socialize outside the office (most notably in the case of Harvey Weinstein).
“We want TXXP to be the supportive and inspiring community where leading women in business come to create and collaborate and find their partners to build leading companies of our generation. It is the place where business gets done and deals are made: women have the ability to celebrate each other’s successes,” said Michelle.
Creating an environment that is empowering as well as safe is no small aspect of The XX Project and many other organizations that are doing the same for professional women. In addition to the conversations around dismantling a culture of sexism and sexual assault, there are also concerns about the brandishing of the “Mike Pence rule”, adapted from iconic Evangelical preacher Billy Graham’s “rule” where he refused to meet with women alone or go to a function where alcohol was being served.
There are many women who are speaking out against this idea, which some on the conservative side say is all about “protecting women” and preventing potentially disastrous situations, because it becomes yet another barrier to women’s success. Networking at events where alcohol is served is extremely commonplace. Having one-on-one meetings is also nothing out of the ordinary. But to make women’s gender the scapegoat for men’s behavior and possibly deny an important career opportunity is just a different side of the same coin.
Needless to say, the system needs a shakeup. The way deals are made and career trajectories mapped out shouldn’t be at the mercy of a patriarchal ideal anymore. It is past time for organizations like The XX Project and countless others like it to be at the forefront of emerging female leadership, in Hollywood, in tech, in any industry. Michelle Edgar clearly recognized the value of bringing together like-minded women when she created TXXP.
“The XX Project is about bringing the best in class and brightest minds, trailblazers, innovators and entrepreneurs across a diverse range of industries in entertainment, media, marketing, wellness and technology,” she said.
While 2016 was the year many of us thought one woman, Hillary Clinton, would crack that highest, hardest, political glass ceiling, 2017 became the year that numerous women, starting with the Women’s March event, rose up and began to tear down barriers of all kinds that have for too long impeded their success. Our encouragement to women everywhere who have struggled to overcome hurdles in their career related to gender discrimination, is to find organizations like The XX Project and get plugged into a network where you too get to leverage your power and lift each other up.