Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The 40th Annual Matrix Awards 2010: Honors Crème de la Crème Women in Communications

"Don't worry; If you love doing it, you'll really be great at doing it."
                                                                           -- Jeffrey Garten

"So follow the life of Ina's sweet husband, Jeffrey."  -- Brian Williams

On Monday, April 19th, a full house audience of over 1,500 communications professionals gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City to celebrate the 40th Annual New York Women In Communications Inc., (NYWICI) Matrix Awards and honor this year’s crème de la crème of women in communications.  Also referred to as the  “Oscar of Communications” by many, this prestigious event continues to honor the best of the best, as all honorees continue to accept their awards in person, and to me, says a great deal about New York Women In Communications, Incorporated (

This year’s eight honorees included women in all walks, or should I say, talks, of communications from television, newspaper, and books to music and lyrical artistry, internet technology, and philanthropy. Also celebrated were NYWICI Matrix Scholarship winners awarded to young women pursuing careers in communications.

Brian Williams, NBC News Anchor was MC of this year’s Matrix Awards and marked the second time in a row that the Matrix Awards commissioned a "man" to emcee. “As we gather on this sparkling day in New York, and we don’t know what other luncheons are doing for their star power, there is an elephant in the room,” said Williams. The audience cheered early on, as William's sharp intelligence, humor and incredible wit engaged the audience and set the stage. “I don’t know why a man’s husband does lunch. And don’t paint on me because they talk, they yell, and chew up around $200,000 for lunch! I should blame the volcano which we’ll be blaming for a lot of things today,” added Williams referring to his boss, Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal who was also on stage.

Oprah, adorned in a chic, deep coral, iridescent-like, A-line dress looked stunning as usual, and was the first to present. She shared her fond memories of Matrix honoree, Gayle King, O editor at large and host of The Gayle King Show. “There isn’t enough time for me to really tell you about my friendship with Gayle and what her friendship means to me … The only person in my life who said yes you should go to Chicago and yes you can be Phil Donahue.” Oprah blocked out rumors in the press and in Kitty Kelley's unauthorized tell all book, including the latest tabloid reports of another man claiming to be her biological father. Oprah brushed it off as just another man needing money for home repairs by saying, "Daughter, call me, I just need a new roof." As King came up to the podium she mentioned how great it was to be here and that she had a dream regarding what to wear and yet she still ended up wearing a similar vibrant color as Oprah. "No this wasn't done intentionally," said King. This fashion statement goes to show you how they do tend to think alike and have similar taste. King was inspiring to listen to as we learned about her experiences about motherhood and her career. “I was never the type of person to stay home all day,” said King. The audience laughed so hard when she shared her body slimmer secrets. King shared many more life lessons including her most important belief that one must always be open to what life has to offer. (Incidentally, I was able to personally meet up with Oprah earlier before our Matrix Awards ceremony began, and I was thrilled to have her answer my "question of the day." More on this can be found in this same blog just below the contents of event write up portion.)

Katie Couric, CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor and 60 Minutes correspondent, was presenter to Anne Keating, senior vice president of public relations, special events and corporate philanthropy for Bloomingdales who also earned another title from Couric as "lovely pitbull." “So I’m sitting in the newsroom on a Friday afternoon getting ready to go on the air, the phone rings and they tell me it’s an important call that I have to take. Who is this, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Les Moonves? No. I pick up the phone and it’s Anne Keating,” said Couric. “I was happy to answer the call because Anne always does," continued Couric. It became very obvious Keating shared Couric’s passion for colon cancer awareness. Bloomingdale’s became the very first corporate supporter of Couric’s colon cancer campaign. “And while today we are here with a few network queens, no Brian I’m not talking about you. Anne is the queen of networking,” said Couric. “Women have changed the world so much,” said Keating. “I am humbled to be on the same stage with an exceptional group of people.”

Marissa Mayer, vice president of search product and user experience for Google, was introduced by Maria Bartiromo, anchor of CNBC's Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo, and host and managing editor of Wall Street Journal Report With Maria Bartiromo.” Maria dressed in her usual well-tailored, business attire -- a Wall Streetish navy pin-striped suit, her off-white collared blouse showing a hint of cleavage that revealed a black bra, her signature style.  “Marissa was the 20th person hired at Google, and today she is literally, still on her honeymoon,” said Bartiromo who believes that this Matrix award to Marissa is a shout out to so many women in communications. "She is with seven other women who changed the world, because technology, the kind she lives and breathes every day, has changed the world in so many ways and so dramatically," said Bartiromo. Mayer graced the podium in appropriate shout-out chic, wearing a gorgeous, geeky-green dress patterned with swirls of black triangles, rectangles, dashes and parentheses-like shapes. Math and code in everything she does, and at best, an exponential life! Then came a quick snapshot of Bartiromo presenting the Matrix Award to Mayer followed by Mayer's first words at the mike, "I’m Marissa Mayer, and I work for Google and I’m a Geek!” She then described her passion as a geek and how it applied to everything in her life including her wedding plans, specs for her bridal gown, honeymoon, to even setting up the stereo acoustic system in her home. “I’m very happy to accept the award on behalf of women geeks in communications everywhere,” concluded Marissa.

Mariska Hargitay, the star of Law and Order, presented Matrix Award to Grammy Award-winning Singer/Songwriter, Sheryl Crow. Hargitay believes that everyone here has a favorite Sheryl Crow song and shared hers, Out of Our Heads and explained how this song has become her anthem. “Sheryl can see into my soul, how I feel what I know and what I believe. And being a multi-platinum musician doesn’t compete with how she’s a mother and a friend,” said Hargitay. Crow shared her beliefs that a great record is a people art and the importance of her family. “Right now I’m writing at a really interesting time in my life, and it’s a great honor to receive this award. I will accept this award as a challenge to continue and look at the world objectively,” said Crow.

Susan Chira, New York Times foreign editor, received her award from friend and colleague Jill Abramson, managing editor of the New York Times. “Susan Chira represents everything that is still important and vital in journalism,” said Abramson. “She is the soul of integrity. She works herself to the bone to protect her correspondents and promote their gallant work. Her belief is to tell a story objectively. There is no one more deserving of this award,” continued Abramson. “I was lucky enough to work when barriers were falling, said Chira. “In 1969 when I was in sixth grade, girls had to wear dresses and if they wore pants they were sent back home,” said Chira who also shared her belief that women can have both work and family.

Anna Quindlen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, presented the award to Ina Garten, former White House nuclear policy analyst, host of the Food Network cooking show and specialty food store owner of The Barefoot Contessa. “This introduction, a piece of cake,” said Quindlen as she introduced Ina Garten. “Like Cher or Madonna or Oprah, she’s known by her brand name; Unlike Cher or Madonna or Oprah, she makes the world’s best coconut cupcakes,” continued Quindlen. Garten mentioned her work experiences at the White House and how she would always tell her husband that what she really would love to do was to have parties for friends. “My husband told me to go ahead and do it and not to worry about making money. He said, if you love doing it, you’ll really be great at doing it,” said Garten. This is what motivated her to buy a specialty food store and call it The Barefoot Contessa. "And my father thought you're giving up a White House job to buy a grocery store," said Garten. Little did she know, The Barefoot Contessa would become a household brand. “And who would think that the Food Network, a tiny little network would take off to become such a powerhouse as it is today. I was really lucky, and it’s been a wonderful ride along the way,” added Garten.

Lesley Stahl, CBS News and 60 Minutes correspondent, presented Matrix Honoree, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, historian and political commentator. Stahl opened her presentation with a very insightful and compelling fact about success, to the almost 100% female audience. (Another highlight and take away for me was my opportunity to personally meet Goodwin after the Matrix Awards ceremony, and I was awe-struck to have her answer my "question of the day;" More on this can be found in this same blog just below the contents of event write up portion.) Several years ago Stahl had met Rice University researchers who were conducting research on success, and their findings were that every women they interviewed all said they were lucky. "Not one man said that,” commented Stahl. It became apparent to me the audience was stunned. What's wrong with women having success resulting from ambition, hard work and intelligence? “Women take a lesson. I’m here happily to present Doris Kearns Goodwin, brilliant biographer and historian. Author of one great book after the next including “Team of Rivals” about Abraham Lincoln,” said Stahl. Then she continued with a question regarding what was the title of Goodwin's thesis for her Harvard Ph.D. “Prayer and Reapportionment,” Stahl announced. “Not to make Doris blush but to underscore, she is an expert on I think just about everything,” continued Stahl. According to Stahl, what everyone in TV-Land loves about Goodwin is not only her bright and sharp analysis but also that fact that Doris talks very fast. “Whenever she’s on you get twice as many words,” said Stahl. Newsworthy trivia about Goodwin is the fact that she is the first women to be allowed into the locker room of the Boston Red Sox and this is also one of the Trivial Pursuit questions for Boston. “There is nothing trivial about Doris Kearns Goodwin, and on top of everything else, on top of all her accomplishments she is really, really nice. I am so proud she is my friend,” said Stahl. Goodwin arrived at the podium and described her love of history by praising 2 important childhood experiences. The first influence, her father, and how scorekeeping became a serious art for her. Her father taught her how to keep score for baseball games and she quickly learned the importance of telling a story from beginning to end. “He worked in NYC during the day and asked me to record the history of the baseball games of that afternoon. He would come home at night and he would listen and laugh as I would explain all the detail,” said Goodwin. “My father paid attention and listened for three hours making me realize that I was telling a fabulous story and made me think there’s something about this thing called history,” continued Goodwin. Her second childhood experience, Goodwin explained, traced to her mother’s chronic illness, rheumatic fever which left her with a damaged heart and with the arteries of a 70 year old yet she was only 30 years old. Her mother’s illness meant she would be bedridden all the time and although with only an eighth grade education, she would read books all the time. “Every night she would read to me I somehow became obsessed about the idea of asking about her own childhood,” said Goodwin. Her mother died when she was only 15 years old but those stories and times with her mother kept Goodwin’s memories alive and were part of what made her who she is today.

NBC Saturday Night Live head writer and Weekend Update anchor, Seth Meyers, presented the Matrix Award to Tina FeyNBC Saturday Night Live Executive Producer, head writer, and Star NBC's three-time Emmy Award-winning "30 Rock."  “Open with an Oprah close with Meyers,” said Meyers. From start to finish, Meyers' brilliant humor throughout his presentation wowed the audience with laughter on top of more laughter. It began with Meyers' appreciation for Matrix Honoree, Anne Keating, which made him reminisce about his experience as a child at Bloomingdales with his mother.  He said to Keating “I’ve been thinking about it all day. Jeff Zucker and Brian Williams are up there on stage with you. That day I got lost in Bloomingdales, they were also there. When I got there I inkly remembered,” explained Meyers. Did you know that Meyers’ closest friend is his mother? Well I certainly never knew such a comic genius could also be mama's boy. But can you imagine being the mother of a young son who never stops thinking crazy funny? I don't know about anyone else, but it must have been exhaustive. And I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the audience thinking that maybe his mom had too much of him that day and was kinda' glad to lose him while he was hiding somewhere in women's lingerie, using padded bras and panties as head caps and sneaking in the ladies fitting rooms. Meyers went on to say of his mother “she always said learn good table manners cause you never know when you’re gonna’ eat in front of a thousand women.” Sort of reminded me of Forest Gump's recollection of his mother explaining life with a box of chocolates, "never know what you're going to get till you bite into it." Myers shared his feelings about being here on stage with Brian Williams, “…although I wish you would stop referring to yourself as my wingman today,” poked Meyers. “It is an honor to be here to introduce my good friend Tina Fey but to be honest I have greater jokes for Doris Kearns Goodwin,” Myers added, as he continued to describe his work experience with Fey as well as her successes and how her latest film, Date Night, has made her both TV and movie star. “There’s something in line about Tina Fey having the exact same career that Sarah Palin wishes she had," Meyers went on. “Tina Fey is the hardest working person I have ever worked with. She always looks for a better joke until the minute she says a joke. It’s relentless and anyone that works with her learns a lot and it’s an honor to give her this award today,” said Meyers. Fey was beaming as she reached the podium, in her vivid Dolce & Gabana designer print dress almost identical to fellow honoree Sheryl Crow.  Fey implied that Crows' surfer-chic style was more appropriate for her athletic shape, compared to her demure version, accessorized with a black sweater. Yet we all knew their dresses weren't enough to give anyone in the audience diplopia.  “It’s an honor to receive this award today and be among these amazing women. I’m really grateful of the generation of women who have worked in communications before me from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s," said Fey. One of Fey's  proudest moments was chanting a commercial back when everything was classic, Coke Classic, Kodak Classic, Nike Classic, and the SNL team thought of “Kotex Classic.”  "It was really funny, but we realized after several meetings they asked what is it and how we should answer," said Fey.  "We answered it’s like a loaf of white bread between your legs," said Fey. “It was very reassuring as I always thought boys could see that thing between my legs and now after all these years I learned they didn’t see it,” Fey continued and the audience couldn’t stop laughing. On a serious note, Fey believes there is scrutiny among women in business that needs to change as it doesn’t apply to men.  “Some journalists said to me you work and you’re a mother, how do you juggle it all? You’re really juggling it all, you’re really brilliant right,” said Fey. "Not only are we amazing but we can stand up on unbelievable scrutiny. Congratulations to all of our Matrix winners,” said Fey. Do you think journalists scrutinize working women/moms more than men? We value your opinion, please answer this poll.

Brian Williams was back at the mike and brought on more delightful wit plus a few in-between pokes. “So what have we learned here?" asked Williams. “Tina, I think you said I was your corn, might have been porn? I want to thank you. Is that how you juggle? Some try to be a little bit more like me, um. Unaware, unknown to you the Director said give me a shot and they took Anne Curry. So what do you think of that," continued Williams. “Thank you Gayle for putting the content on body slimmers out there. I can’t name names but there are some men with spanks on the stage today. We need to wait today until Oprah’s plane clears New York Airport," said Williams. “Marissa, I love your speech and your code, and thank you for Google Earth. Anne, you are right to honor Katharine Graham, perhaps the most fascinating women, there’s no one more interesting, mine is No Ordinary Time, the story of the FDR at the White House during WWII by Doris Kearns Goodwin," said Williams.

In closing, Williams continued more insightful delights by reminding us of  the “man’s husband,” Jeff Zucker, and reiterated the importance of why we are all here today, to celebrate our scholarship winners. “We have so many young students here today, it’s all about them and we have to remember it,” said Williams. He  continued with a quote from honoree Ina Garten's husband, Jeffrey, “Don’t worry if you love doing it, you’ll be great at it."  This was an amazing event and tribute to our young scholarship winners.  "So follow the life of Ina's sweet husband Jeffrey," said Williams.

Below are some highlights of my personal experiences, before, during and after the event:
Arriving about an hour before the event proved to be the best strategy for me. I got to stake the place out. And I had my “question of the day” all prepared: “What was your most important decision and was it based on your knowledge or a hunch?”

The Waldorf-Astoria was filled with so many exciting people from the exterior’s front façade to the ladies room. I was able to speak to so many attendees from honorees to distinguished guests and presenters before, during and after the event. I couldn’t believe I was wearing such high, stiletto heels, standing around for hours but no way was I going to break this momentum by slipping off my gray Sergio Rossi stilletos for black ballerina flats.

As I was heading toward the reservation desk to find out my table number, “OMG, it’s Oprah,” I shouted to myself as I rushed towards her in my stilettos and all hoping she would answer my question of the day. “Hello Oprah. I love you” I said and then continued “What was the best decision you ever made and was it based on a hunch or knowledge?” Oprah looked gracious as always and replied “My best decision was moving to Chicago and it was based on a hunch.” I’m sure everyone loves Oprah, but seeing and listening to her answer my question, was too profound for words to describe. She is so powerful, yet so approachable.

The elevator ride up to the 3rd floor was anything but normal. Television news journalists and celebrities Ann Curry, Hoda Kotb, Kathy Lee Gifford, and Natalie Morales didn’t seem to mind the crowded elevator. It was apparent, that I along with a few colleagues, really got a surprise ride.  Seeing them in person was like having one of Ina's cakes with extra icing. And it was so obvious how happy they were to be at The Matrix Awards to celebrate the honorees.

As I entered the dining hall, I received even more surprises. I was able to ask a diversified group of individuals including luminary television hosts, news anchors, and journalists, my question of the day, and everyone I asked replied! Eleven out of eleven ain't bad.

NBC Today co-anchor and national correspondent, Natalie Morales replied, “I think the most important decisions we make in life is our life partner and then having children and having a family. Of course I made the right decision. It wasn’t just a hunch you just know.”

“Moving to NY was my most important decision and it was based not on my knowledge but just purely, ambition,” said Rachel Shippy, Assistant to the Publisher, Ladies Home Journal, A Meredith Publication.

“My best decision was moving to New York and having a career in Fashion, and it was based on evolution,” said Margo Hasen, Owner at New York City’s Margo Hasen – Fashion Made Easy.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS RD author of The F-Factor Diet and the founder of Tanya Zuckerbrot Nutrition, LLC and mentioned that her most important decision was based on a hunch.

Listening to television news anchor, Hoda Kotb, co-host of NBC Today and Dateline NBC news correspondent, host of syndicated series Your Total Health, and a recipient of numerous awards I learned that being persistent despite repetitive rejection can be a blessing in disguise. “Mine was when I was going on job interviews right after I graduated school and I got in my mom’s car and drove and drove and drove and got rejected everywhere. I received about 27 rejections so when I got to the 28th interview, I almost didn’t go in there because I’ve been rejected so many times. The best decision I probably ever made and I really made it because I was frustrated and tired and just wanted to get it over with and go home. I decided to go on that one more interview when everyone had told me no. I was at a fork in the road, and I could have gone to PR here and TV News here and then there was the News Director, Sam Candrone, standing in the cross road and I almost didn’t go. So that decision to knock on his door was probably the most important decision I have ever made.”

After listening to NBC Today News anchor and journalist, Ann Curry it became clear that her best decision came from a hunch. Curry shared how her humble upbringing and supportive family are what really shaped who she is today. “I came from a poor family, and I was the first to graduate college. My family was very important in my life. My best decision was to attend college and major in Journalism and fulfill my dreams.”

I also noticed Jeanine Pirro, host of her own show, Judge Jeanine Pirro and legal analyst on Fox News and frequent guest to many other shows including FOX News’ On the Record with Greta and CNN’s Larry King Live. I was so thrilled when she graciously took a moment to answer my question as I could tell she was very busy and heading somewhere. Her signature smile and lively spirit came through even with her short, quick answer. “Facts, facts, facts, you know that, it’s always about the facts; I always base my decisions on facts,” said Pirro. She is also a former Judge, prosecutor, and New York State elected official.

Rena Bartos, Matrix Award honoree, 1977, former advertising executive and author of The Moving Target. “My most important decision was based on a hunch,” she said.

Linda Kaplan Thaler, CEO & Chief Creative Officer of Kaplan Thaler Group LLC, NYWICI President Elect, and author of The Big Bang brought more unexpected and exciting moments. “The most important decision I ever made was marrying my husband. Whether it had to do with any expertise or partly based on the fact that I was 36, no just joking. It was just gut feeling because like the first time I met him I felt like I had gone home. I always tell people go with your gut, it has an IQ of 100,000; your working brain has an IQ of about 100."

Before heading home, I was fortunate to notice Matrix Award honoree, Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian, biographer and Pulitzer Prize author at a table at the restaurant in Waldorf-Astoria after the event. She is the most intriguing woman and was so genuine, kind and patient to provide me with her answer which obviously was based on her instinct for making the right decisions. “When I got married and had my kids; I was at that time still teaching. I realized I couldn’t be a professor, and write, and be a mother at the same time," said Goodwin.  "So I decided to give up being a professor even though that was my identity for over 10 years. I decided to take a risk to write and that turned out being the right decision. But it really meant that I could write and be with the kids,” added Goodwin.

There were so many lessons and learning experiences from this year’s Matrix Awards event. Initially I was disappointed that I was unable to participate in volunteering at the red carpet, but this negative became a positive for me. I learned a lot including the power of knowledge and intuition and how this is truly a gift. I’m looking forward to next year’s Matrix Awards 2011 to be held on Monday, April 11th and sponsored by Meredith Corporation.  I hope to see you all again.
written by Gloria Buono Daly

Below is a listing of the the latest Internet Media Coverage on this year's Matrix
Huffington Post, “Who Was Best Dressed?”
Oprah Winfrey Honors “MSF” Gayle King at NYWICI 2010 Matrix Awards
Oops Tina Fey and Sheryl Crow Wear the Same Dress to the Matrix Awards
Oprah Speaks Out About Kitty Kelley Book: “So-Called Biography”
Lady Newsies [and Brian Williams] Gather for Matrix Awards
Oprah: Norh Robinson, man claiming to be father, just wants “a new roof”
Tina Fey and Sheryl Crow Among Matrix Winners
PIC: Sheryl Crow, Tina Fey Arrive to Event in Same Dress!
The New York Women In Communications 2010 Matrix Awards Red Carpet
The big Life – The Women Who Change The World” Gayle King, Tina Fey and more
Seeing Double: Sheryl Crow and Tina Fey Rock the Same Dress at the Same Event
Tina Fey Honored at Conference
Matrix Awards Lauds Women
People in the News
The Best Dressed: matchy-matchy chic
Oprah Winfrey, Lesley Stahl, Sheryl Crow: Scenes From Women Who Change the World
Breaking News and Gossip - Perez Hilton

Every year since 1970, NYWICI has awarded outstanding women in communications the prestigious Matrix Awards. The long list of past winners reads like a who-is-who of exceptional women in the fields of advertising, books, broadcasting, film, magazines, new media, newspapers and public relations and is a true reflection of achievements by women in communications. For more information visit

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Monday Night at The Paley Center for Media: Guess Who Got Re-Elected?

On Monday, April 5th, a full house audience of TV, Media and Communications professionals gathered for the evening at The Paley Center for Media for a one-on-one discussion with Academy Award-winning actor, Geena Davis and stellar interviewer, Pat Mitchell, President and CEO, The Paley Center for Media.

“Geena Davis on screen and off! Tonight’s conversation is bound to be inspiring for all”  Mitchell praised as she introduced Geena Davis. Besides summarizing Davis’ remarkable career of iconic roles in TV including Buffalo Bill and Commander in Chief, and films Tootsie, Beetle Juice, A League of Their Own, The Accidental Tourist, where she received her Oscar, followed by the iconic Thelma and Louise, where she (with Susan Sarandan) was nominated for a second Oscar for best actress, only a few years after receiving her first Oscar.

Highlights of the evening included a discussion about the impact of Geena Davis' life on winning her first Oscar for The Accidental Tourist to her various iconic roles. Also discussed were barriers in the entertainment industry for women and young girls, particularly the disturbing gender gap of women in media. Davis' goal is to make sure that the awareness of gender gap issues continues to increase and that people continue to see the vast differences of roles for girls and boys in media and become involved.

In 2007 there were only 2.7% female film directors employed. Davis was aware of women parts from amazing women who have paved the way such as Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Sally Field and Glenn Close, but it wasn’t until her daughter was about 2 years old and they were watching kids programs that she noticed gender disparity directed at little kids.

The characterizations were so sexualized that she found it disturbing and prompted her to start The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. In a very short time, her organization has compiled the largest research on G-rated films and TV programs made for children. Among her research findings are the many producers, writers, and directors that weren’t aware of gender disparities. Her goal is to reach all movie makers of children’s programs (i.e., writers, producers, directors, casting directors, etc.) and discuss the choices being made right there on the sets.

Her institute has several research projects in the works and they are going to be more qualitative than quantiative and will focus more on the top grossing G-rated movies from 2006 through the present. They will interview the film and TV executives to see if they are aware of the gender disparity issues and learn what they think.

Of great concern to many women is the fact that there aren't enough female action-hero movies, and there is a need for more diverse portrayals of females and males in Film and TV entertainment for children. According to research from The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the ratio of girls to boys of 1:3 has never improved and has been the same since 1946 (a span of 64 years). “It never gets better, the psyche of people in Hollywood believes women will watch men but men won’t watch women,” Davis concludes. According to her research 70% of those interviewed believe female character roles are boring.

Davis feels that it takes consciousness to make changes in gender disparity, and  that it's not just about having equal amounts of boys and girls. Davis illustrated this by her recollection of a boat race scene in Stuart Little where the director for casting extras placed the boy extras with the boat remotes in the front and positioned all of the girls behind the boys to watch. “I looked and asked, can you give half of the remotes to the girls?” said Davis. “And he said, yeah,” Davis added.

The alarming issue of hyper-sexuality in film and tv was discussed and the conclusion of how the vast majority of 13 year old girls occupied with watching this is eye candy. "Hot characters in a G-rated movie makes me cringe, what does my daughter think? And that's all 13 year old females can do?" a deeply concerned Davis added.  Other findings from her research indicated that the number 1 aspiration by lead female characters in film and tv is romance and that the only two career goals for women were entertainment and royalty. "It's very hard to get jobs in royalty," said Davis. A compelling correlation of hours spent watching TV for girls and boys was discussed.  The more hours that girls watch TV the less options they feel they have in life. For males, the more they watch TV the more sexist they feel.

Another alarming trend had to do with the fact that sex-revealing clothes worn by girls in G-rated movies were the same as the clothing worn in R-rated programs. Davis believes that in order to improve children's images in movies and TV, the most impact for girls is going to be in the secondary and tertiary characters. Getting more movies about female characters, taking parts and switching them around so that more females are involved in the action is key to confronting gender disparity in children.

Topics about the importance of having more women portrayed in senior leadership roles on TV and Film were also addressed.  “Your iconic TV role as first female President of the United States, Mackenzie Allen, in Commander in Chief, which was #1 until Fox’s American Idol aired. I wonder what was running through your head” a curious Mitchell asked. It was very obvious that Davis had a tremendous fondness for that role and admitted being disappointed about the show’s short run. “I mean you can’t get more iconic than playing that role; What else am I suppose to do? Play a waitress? I’m the President,” said Davis. “Actually I took this role right after playing a parent on The Rosie Show,” Davis added as the audience laughed.

Commander in Chief, was #1 on Tuesday nights until FOX's American Idol aired. Davis provided compelling evidence and statistics of the big impact this show had even with it’s short TV life.

According to a media research study done by The Kaplan Thaler Group, people who didn’t even watch the program and who were just familiar with the show were 58% more likely to vote for a female President. “That was just during our short season and shows how powerful that show really was,” says Davis. “Imagine if we had 2, 3, or 4 seasons, we might have had a female President,” surmised Mitchell.

When Davis was asked if there was anything that we, the consumers could have done to help keep Commander in Chief on the air Davis replied that despite all of the letters and correspondence, it would have been difficult to get the advertisers’ buy in. “Actually I have been trying to get the show back on Cable TV, “an optimistic Davis said. “And here’s the ad -- a silhouette of me and the caption -- Guess who got re-elected?”

The audience viewed an excerpt of her ground breaking movie, The Accidental Tourist, the dog walking scene. “Other than cruelty to animals did you expect that The Accidental Tourist would be the ground-breaking role that would win you the Academy Award?” asked Mitchell. “I read the book and thought how much I want to play that part. I was fairly naive about how things worked in those days, “ replied Davis.

Davis then described how the characters she had been most attracted to were complicated, multidimensional women who were in charge of their own destiny yet couldn't articulate their desires. “I always wanted to play very active parts, and I’m lucky that I wasn’t financially obliged to take parts I didn’t want to,” says Davis.

For many women winning the Oscar actually limited their careers but for Davis it was filled with moments of defying all odds. Winning her first Academy Award was very affirming. She was not sure how much it opened doors for her, instead she felt recognition and relaxation. “Kickback!  It gave me a sense that the pressure was off and it actually had a calming effect,” says Davis. Davis mentioned how profoundly educational her Oscar experience was as she personally never appreciated the media and then was struck by how so few opportunities there are that can make you feel this way. “It had a big impact on me and my future choices,” said Davis.

Throughout the provocative discussion, the audience received a lot of take-aways; besides Davis' charm, brilliance and sense of humor the audience witnessed surprise, delightful insights such as knowing one of Davis’ favorite quotes from her films. As the audience viewed an excerpt from the film, Thelma and Louise, the scene where the policeman gets forced into the trunk while pleading with them that he has a wife and kids. Louise (Geena Davis) with gun in hand replies “You’re lucky. You be sweet to them especially to your wife. My husband wasn’t sweet to me, look how I turned out?”

The discussion was followed by a series of Q and A ranging from the recent female ski olympians and hypersexuality in the media (i.e., Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue), perceptions of senior women leaders and executives in media to information on how to access data from her research and if her research is done around the world.  Interestingly, her organization researched 30 other countries and found that they shared similar concerns regarding gender disparity and hypersexuality. Surprisingly, 80% of international movies are made in America, and we are responsible for the vast amount of female stereotyping in film all around the world. In Mitchell's closing she shared her thoughts with the audience that Davis' ability to impact the world on this topic is such a big subject that she needs to return. Let's stay tuned for Part II.

This Paley Center for Media One on One program was presented in association with New York Women In Communications, Inc.,  New York Women in Film and Television, The Paley Center for Media, and The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. For information about  findings from her organization's research visit

written by Gloria Buono Daly (c) 2010