Liam Lambert: Women taking action on national, local levels
April 26, 2018
Over the past year, there's been a lot of attention paid to, and activism around the discrimination toward women and minorities in the workplace.
Hollywood being the highest-profile workplace there is, most of the focus has been there, as scandals and revelations have rocked the industry. We saw some of the aftereffects this awards season, with nods towards diversity in the nominations offered, and the acceptance speech from Frances McDormand, which introduced the term "inclusion rider" to the national conversation — the practice of leading actors requiring diverse hiring on set as part of their own contract.
It's a wave of progress that has long been needed in the media and film industry, which has always been one of the most notorious "boys clubs", creating a culture of erasure and inequality for female and minority professionals and the stories they tell.
But, it isn't just Hollywood that's feeling these winds of change. Even small communities such as ours can serve as hotbeds for activism and progress.
Local artist/activists Sheila Cameron and Elisa Parker are leading the fight from here in Nevada County, just last year having launched the project 50 Women Can. Their new collaboration brings together a collective of women in entertainment leadership roles whose aim is to elevate women's voices in media and film, and thereby add their perspective to the larger culture and open doors to recognizing women as powerful and equal contributors. 50 Women Can is supported by the larger non-profit organization Take the Lead, whose mission is to "closing the gender parity gap in all sectors, all over the world by 2025."
Cameron, a veteran of the television industry and now a Nevada County artist and community leader, says 50 Women Can was a natural extension of the work she was already doing to bring activism and awareness into our daily conversations. As part of her journey from HBO producer to "stay-at-home mom calling BS on Hollywood", Cameron stayed an active observer on the discrimination and abuse she knew firsthand, and sparked a reputation as an industry watchdog. After unintentionally starting a viral movement to support actress Katie Holmes' separation from her husband Tom Cruise, #freekatie was suddenly seen popping up everywhere "from People Magazine to Italian Vogue." While she considered the trend somewhat tongue in cheek, it lead her to meet women doing meaningful work at 50 Women Can, who hired her on as a consultant, a sort of "Jiminy Cricket figure," she says, to give them an insider's sense of what would work and what wouldn't.
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But, you may be asking yourself, what does any of this have to do with us here in Nevada County?
Well, Cameron and Parker's ambitions, as well as those of the 50 Women cohort in general, extend far beyond Hollywood, to our very own backyards. When you think about it, she says, "Media creates the idea of what a woman is, and [so] if we can change that in media and entertainment, then it's an exponential change, because often, it'll be a springboard to catapult to the larger gender parity issue." It's a fascinating concept, sort of Trojan-horsing the idea that women are equally deserving of things like wage parity, and recognition, that everyone who works at a given thing should expect relatively commensurate compensation, into what is arguably the largest idea factory of modern times, and thereby planting it as a seed in the collective consciousness.
It isn't just in activism that such a groundswell can be seen, either. Locally, a growing number of female candidates are running for local offices, ranging from City Council seats in Grass Valley and Nevada City, to Sheriff and other positions. District 1 Rep. Doug LaMalfa is currently being challenged by three women for his seat in Congress.
It's becoming increasingly impossible to ignore the signal being sent loudly and clearly on all levels of local and state government, news and media, and from our own colleagues and neighbors. Women are engaged in playing a vital, meaningful role on all levels, and the time has come to acknowledge their contributions with equal and accessible opportunities and compensation.
Liam Lambert, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.