SESSION 1: BE BOLD
Gloria Steinem took the stage, interviewing Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer. Spencer spoke of her journey as an actress, and the gradual progression of the roles she has played, explaining how she came to learn when the time was right to say “no.” “No is the most powerful word that you have in your vocabulary,” she told the audience. Both Spencer and Steinem spoke to the importance of films like “Hidden Figures,” and platforms like MAKERS to bring daylight to untold women’s stories, so that in another 50 years, history will be different. Spencer added of the movement MAKERS has created, “we definitely have to keep the momentum because four years is a long time.”
In a question and answer session, Spencer spoke about her new role as a producer and her mission to tell unknown and diverse stories. “I want the movies I produce to show a broader spectrum of people in the world – all shapes and sizes, all religions,” she said. When asked what her dream role is and also what role she wants to play but which terrifies her, she confessed that they are “one and the same,” explaining, “The role I’m destined to play is to be one of the greatest producers in Hollywood.”
Ella Bell spoke to the power of sisterhood. Bell invoked the wisdom of Sojourner Truth, “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again.” Bell’s bottom line: We each stand on the shoulders of sisters who kicked the doors open for us, and we will never advance until the majority of women come together to work for gender equity and justice in a united front. Bell said that in 2017, it’s imperative to forge an inclusive sisterhood, and the MAKERS Conference will be that forum for dialogue and hard work. Raising her arms, hand in hand with Steinem and Spencer, Bell declared, “Let the work begin!”
MONDAY DINNER: MAKERS PUB
The MAKERS Podcast release was announced. The first episode is available on iTunes with new episodes to come. Dinner guests got a preview of the first episode, featuring MAKER Maria Pepe. As a young girl in the 1970s, Pepe helped open up Little League to girls (even though she never got a chance to play). Pepe spoke at the dinner about the joy that seeing girls play has brought her. Nancy Armstrong, MAKERS Senior Producer, explained that the podcast will explore the stories of trailblazers like Pepe, with extended interview excerpts and commentary from host and MAKERS Senior Producer Amanda McCall.
Dinner guests viewed the premiere of Kathy Najimy’s MAKERS profile video. Following the video, Najimy addressed the audience, saying that at this critical time, “our voices must not be oppressed or shushed. Right now, our voices are the answer to our survival.” She then introduced the show, Real Life, directed and curated by Najimy and featuring actresses Debra Messing, Rosie Perez, and Zosia Mamet.t
Zosia Mamet’s performance focused on the six years she spent living with what felt like “the worst UTI of my life.” Mamet recounted the dozens of male doctors who dismissed her as crazy, hysterical, and made her doubt her own body and sanity. She was, at long last, successfully diagnosed and easily treated (for pelvic floor disorder) by a female doctor in “Balenciaga boots.” “Despite the years of trauma,” Mamet reflected, “I wouldn’t trade my pain because my pain taught me everything. It is essential that we as women know our bodies and that we trust them.” She concluded, “to every woman out there, I say hold on, hold on to that power with your dear life because it’s your birthright.”
Rosie Perez took the audience on the wild ride of her childhood–being born out of a scandalous affair between her parents, her mother’s mental illness, and being yanked away from a loving home with her aunt at the age of four and placed in a Catholic orphanage. She recounted the emotional and physical abuse she endured at the orphanage, and later, in group homes. But Perez focused mostly on the handful of nuns who saw “a light” in her and put in her plays, taught her to tap dance, to play baseball, the power of poetry, the power of education, the power of self-worth, and made her feel loved. When she was nominated for Golden Globe awards and Oscars in the years that followed, it was these special women that instantaneously came to mind. “I could have wallowed in self-pity or become a statistic,” she concluded, “but I didn’t because I learned from women.”
Debra Messing closed the night with an animated story that began with the line, “Her nose is ruining my movie.” It was the story of her first day as a bright-eyed 25-year-old, filming A Walk in the Clouds, and finding herself shamed and humiliated by director Alfonso Arau. It led her back to memories of anti-Semitism, growing up as the lone Jewish girl in her class in Rhode Island and learning there was danger in being different and “other.” Messing recalled how she found escape and hope in theater and film, finally seeing herself (and her nose) in Barbra Streisand and in Jennifer Gray’s “Baby” in Dirty Dancing. Yet, even on the groundbreaking sitcom, “Will & Grace,” Messing had to push back against the network’s attempt to change her appearance (this time, they wanted to pad her small breasts). Keeping her “perklets” ultimately led to one of the funniest episodes of the show. She realized there is nothing wrong with her, or her “strong nose” and “small breasts,” but there is something wrong with Hollywood and our culture’s narrow definition of beauty. “Success out of truth, this is who I am,” she declared. “I’m a f%@ing original. My nose and I have come this far, and, like Barbra Streisand, I am defiantly keeping it.”
SESSION 2: BEING INTENTIONAL
Joanna Barsh walked the audience through the latest data on women’s leadership. Progress is real, if glacially slow, Barsh reported. There’s no simple solution to a complex problem, but Barsh spotlighted a few important ways that companies are starting to make progress, particularly through transparency.
Megan Smith shared her idea that we must “play the whole orchestra.” For Smith, we can’t buy into the idea that there are “technical people” and “not technical people.” We have to get everyone comfortable and fluent with using the ingredients of technology if we’re going to solve some of our most intractable problems.
Patrice Banks joined Megan Smith onstage to talk about her movement to educate and empower women around cars. Banks’ current mission is to turn every woman into a “She-canic” who is comfortable and confident with cars. She invited conference attendees to beef up their own car fix-it 101 with hands-on tutorials on a car parked just outside the conference hall. There were an estimated 500 more car savvy women at the conference’s end.
The session opened with the premiere of Eva Longoria’s MAKERS profile video. Longoria was then interviewed by agent and fellow MAKER Christy Haubegger. Longoria hopes to tell untold Latino stories. “I say this confidently,” Longoria said. “I’m a really good director because I’m a woman. Directing is about problem-solving and women are the best problem solvers in the world.”
Cecile Richards continued the conversation, talking about the Women’s March in January, why it mattered and where we go from here. A heartfelt Richards reflected on the protest’s geographic breadth and its history. Women, including the suffragettes and her mother, Ann Richards, have “never gotten anything without fighting for it.” As a next actionable step, she urged everyone to bravely share their personal stories of reproductive health care to get rid of the stigma and shame, and expose it as fact of life.
Lydia Polgreen was interviewed by fellow journalist and MAKER Kara Swisher, Executive Editor, Recode. The pair talked about the future of journalism in the era of “alternative facts” and a presidential administration at odds with the media. Polgreen, who spent her career at the New York Times, is focused on the need to make journalism less elite, to hold the powerful to account and to take seriously the lived experiences of the people in the country who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 and have felt left out and ignored. She believes news organizations need to not write about them, but write for them in an inclusive and empathic way.
SESSION 3: A BOLD YOU
Diane Von Furstenberg admitted that while she has always believed her whole life that being a woman was an advantage, “For the first time, after this election, I actually felt sexism. It’s the first time I am not feeling so bold myself,” she confessed. She also spoke about the highs and lows of her career, turning 70, her insecurities, and the importance of women finding their inherent strength, which always shows in tragedy. “When a tragedy comes, strangely enough women take over,” she remarked. “My message: Let’s just take over before the tragedy.”
Leanne Pittsford detailed the ways in which her organizations are overcoming the traditional bias (white, straight, male, cisgendered) of power networks and creating validation and opportunity for LGBTQ women and traditionally marginalized groups. Pittsford believes it all comes down to human connection, making the invisible visible, and the power of technology to scale those connections. She’s hastening to the world she would like to live in, where there can be a black, lesbian president.
Sarah Robb O’Hagan, the newly announced CEO of Flywheel Sports, said that to #BEBOLD and have impact, you need to focus on your specialty, let go of what’s comfortable, and partner with people who are different than you to bring out the best in yourself and in others.
Lilly Singh Entertainer
The YouTube sensation, Lilly Singh, encouraged everyone with a dream or career goal to “focus only on your Plan A” and “’F-’ Plan B.” She recounted the story of her own decision to pursue a YouTube career instead of the safe path of graduate school preferred by her South Asian parents. Singh has over 11 million YouTube followers, and performs to sold out arenas.
Tamika Catchings Former WNBA Player and Co-Founder, Catch The Stars Foundation with Tim Armstrong Chief Executive Officer, AOL Inc.; joined by The Splash Sisters, Caylie and Maya Lopez.
The session opened with the premiere of Tamika Catchings’ MAKERS profile video. Tim Armstrong, AOL CEO, then interviewed Catchings, talking to her about overcoming adversity, her relationship with legendary coach Pat Summit, how to inspire teamwork, her faith, and scaling her foundation globally. Catchings drove home the lesson that she learned from turning around a championship team, that we’ll never get there if even a fraction of people don’t buy into what we’re doing.
Dribbling sensations Caylie and Maya Lopez joined Catchings and Armstrong, dribbling their way on stage. Armstrong put these future WNBA stars on “Team MAKERS,” presenting them and Catchings with custom MAKERS jerseys. He also announced a new MAKERS partnership with the WBNA, giving everyone in the audience 2 free tickets to a game of their choice.
AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, announced his commitment to make leadership 50/50 by 2020.
SESSION 4: A NEW WORKPLACE
Sheryl Sandberg Chief Operating Officer, Facebook and Lori Goler Global Head of People, Facebook with Dyllan McGee MAKERS Founder & Executive Producer
Sheryl Sandberg and Lori Goler talked to Dyllan McGee about the company’s 21st century workplace policies, millennials, and the coming Generation Z. Sandberg and Goler took the opportunity to publicly announce new, expanded paid family leave and bereavement policies at Facebook. Sandberg also spoke about her own experience after losing her husband Dave in 2015, the support she got from her boss Mark Zuckerberg, and her new book that highlights her lessons learned on resilience. The conversation wrapped up with a lighthearted speed-round of questions on office etiquette.
Judaline Cassidy Union Plumber, Local One NYC
Judaline Cassidy took the stage following the premiere of her MAKERS profile video. She stressed the economic opportunity that construction trades can provide women if only they are given a chance to increase beyond the current 3% of women represented in the industry. She also asked the room to join her in supporting the Women’s Building – a NoVo foundation project that is transforming a former women’s prison in Manhattan into a beacon for women activists and communities. It will be a building, “made by women, for women, for world domination.”
Vicki Shabo took the stage and revealed that the idea for the PSA was born out of a conversation that she had with someone she met at last year’s MAKERS Conference! She underscored the frightening statistic that 86 percent of women in the U.S. (100 million women) don’t have paid family leave, and reminded us that both major parties’ presidential candidates spoke about it during this year’s election. “It’s not a partisan issue, it’s a human issue,” she said, “and the time is ripe to get it done.”
MAKERS Panel: Bold Initiatives with Erica Baker Senior Engineer, Slack Technologies; Anna Patterson Vice President of Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Google; Trish Stroman Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group; Angela Sun Head of Strategy and Corporate Development, Bloomberg; moderated by Shelley Zalis Chief Executive Officer, The Female Quotient and Creator, The Girls' Lounge
Shelley Zalis spoke to the panelists about the real-world actions they have taken to move the needle on gender equality and diversity in their companies. Erica Baker talked about the blunt and purposefully uncomfortable conversations they have about “racism” and “sexism” at Slack. Trish Stroman summarized the firm’s newly released study on paid family leave that found that the companies who offer it are seeing a return on their investment. Angela Sun discussed the Gender Equality Index Bloomberg created and the pressure it has put on boards who now see their investors and consumers making choices based on this measure. Anna Patterson talked about what Google is doing internally and externally to expose the contribution of their women engineers, the “hidden figures” at Google.
SESSION 5: CHANGING PERSPECTIVES
Jill Soloway took the stage following the premiere of her MAKERS profile video. She spoke about her personal gender journey and an exploration of what femininity, makeup and Spanx mean for all of us. From her turning point moment in a Berlin glam session, to lessons from watching the Kardashians, Soloway discussed how “getting ready” can be a “permission structure” for relaxed pleasure for some, and the opposite for others, like her, who feel trapped by having to make themselves sufficiently attractive before their ideas will be heard.
Priscilla Chan joined Megan Smith to talk about the origins of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which followed the birth of her and husband Mark Zuckerberg’s daughter Max and the universal, life-changing perspective shift it triggered for the couple. Chan described how she and Zuckerberg thought through what they might uniquely be able to contribute to their two big issue areas - education and science - and some of the work already underway.
Spark Talk: Denice Ross Public Interest Technology Fellow, New America and Kelly Jin Director, Data-Driven Justice, Laura and John Arnold Foundation
Denice Ross and Kelly Jin led a conversation about initiatives that are tackling big social problems through technology. Ross and Jin revealed, in turn, how they are currently using data to make a dramatic difference in fair policing and criminal justice reform.
Salamishah Tillet took the stage following the premiere of her MAKERS profile video. She spoke of her experience of being raped as a college student, and the process of healing through the non-profit she founded with her sister, A Long Walk Home. Tillet described the progress we’ve seen in the last decade in tackling sexual assault on campuses. But she also called attention to the backlash that has begun, and what we must do to not let it derail the movement to end violence against women and girls.
Luvvie Ajayi had a conversation with Gabby Douglas and Ibtihaj Muhammad about growing up without many role models who looked like them and the cyber-bullying they have dealt with as female athletes. Douglas spoke about how bad the negative press was for her at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the moment when Leslie Jones stood up for her. Muhammad gave voice to why they both feel an obligation to stand up and speak out when something isn’t right. “We owe it to the people who are behind us,” she said.
Sherrilyn Ifill took the stage following the premiere of her MAKERS video. In her remarks, Ifill did not shy away from noting the “existential” challenges to our democracy that we currently face. She drew attention to the ordinary, courageous individuals - like the plaintiffs at the heart of Brown v. Board of Education, and other history-making cases – who always push us forward and will again.
Ifill concluded her forceful remarks by talking about her beloved late cousin, the trailblazing journalist Gwen Ifill — her friend, advisor, and “protector.” Gwen Ifill’s MAKERS profile played in tribute.
Cynthia Erivo came to the stage to add a tribute in song. However, she first took the chance to say a few words, an opportunity she said she does not usually afforded at such events, but felt it was the right day for it, which added emotional weight to the songs that followed. She performed Jazmine Sullivan’s “Masterpiece,” followed by “I’m Here” from “The Color Purple.” Erivo’s breathtaking, lung-defying performance left few dry eyes, and brought everyone to their feet.
TUESDAY DINNER: PUT HER ON THE MAP
Exclusive Announcement: Andrew Robertson Chief Executive Officer, BBDO
Andrew Robertson announced the launch of a new public awareness campaign — “Put Her on the Map” — that aims to do just that by pushing companies, towns and cities to rename streets and landmarks after influential women, and in doing so, give young women the inspiration to aspire to greatness. Currently, only 8% of U.S. historic landmarks are named after women. Robertson urged the powerful women assemble to get their companies to name their corporate ways and buildings after women who matter to their company or industry. For example, he suggested, Facebook’s “1 Hacker Way” would make a great “1 Sheryl Sandberg Way.”
First Lady Amy Elaine Wakeland
Robertson introduced the First Lady of Los Angeles, Amy Elaine Wakeland, who endorsed the “Put Her on the Map” initiative, which she said was being introduced to LA at the perfect time. She detailed the bold moves LA has made to achieve historic gender parity in city government.
Special Remarks: Patricia Arquette introduced by Gloria Steinem
Following dinner, Gloria Steinem introduced actress and activist Patricia Arquette who delivered an impassioned explanation of the Equal Rights Amendment and the critical need to fight for its long overdue passage. Arquette made it perfectly clear, “many people think that women have constitutional equality, but we do not.” While we forced Afghanistan to put it in their constitution, in the US, women “have piecemeal legislation that changes according to who is in power.” She described several of the discriminatory laws and threats to women and families in place in states across the country. At the end of her remarks, she had the audience on its feet chanting “ERA NOW."
Dyllan McGee, MAKERS Founder and Executive Producer, led a celebration of MAKERS 5th Birthday. To illustrate the history of the MAKERS project and “what a movement looks like,” she brought to the stage the people who made MAKERS a reality, starting with Gloria Steinem, Nancy and Tim Armstrong, Samantha Leibovitz DeChiaro, and the MAKERS team, and ending with the AOL and Verizon team members and the many MAKERS in the room who filled up the small stage. The group, joined, of course, by Cynthia Erivo, led the room in singing “Happy Birthday,” and blew out the candles on a massive birthday cake.
SESSION 6: THE NEXT GENERATION
Stiklorius moderated the first-ever MAKERS Men panel with astronaut Leland Melvin and quarterback Russell Wilson. Stiklorius spoke to Melvin and Wilson about what men can do to actually move the needle on hard issues like the pay gap in sports and in every industry. When asked how feminist men can hold their stance in all-male locker rooms and boardrooms where misogynistic talk might fly, Melvin exclaimed, “you shut that crap down!” Wilson agreed that is not the kind of behavior that takes place in the locker rooms he is in or that would be acceptable. Wilson also talked about becoming a stepfather to wife Ciara’s son Future Jr., changing diapers, and how men can set examples for young boys. The conversation included the world premieres of Leland Melvin and John Legend’s MAKERS Men profile videos.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom spoke about the importance of upending the limiting stereotypes we place, not just on women and girls, but also on boys and men. She said that we need to make empathy, emotion, and compassion acceptable characteristics for men and allow them to be whole, authentic, human beings.
Kristina Duncan talked about the research Barbie has done showing the critical impact that supportive fathers have on their daughters’ lives. Duncan shared a poignant #DadsWhoPlayBarbie commercial, and awarded the first-ever MAKERS Dad award to Jimmy Lopez. Lopez is the father of five strong daughters, including Caylie and Maya Lopez, The Splash Sisters from Day 2 of the conference. In accepting the award, Lopez spoke briefly about connecting with his daughters over basketball, and occasional pedicures. He described what being at the MAKERS Conference and exposing his daughters to so many women role models has meant to his family, and made a fantastic suggestion of his own: a female Mount Rushmore.
MAKERS Panel: United State of Women with Wendy Carrillo Human rights journalist, entrepreneur, and candidate for US Congress; Brittany Packnett VP, National Community Alliances, Teach For America; Bellamy Young Actress, singer, and producer; moderated by Taylor Barnes Director, USOW
The panelists spoke about the tumultuous but galvanizing time we’re living through today, where “the rulebook for women’s political engagement is being rewritten,” and women like Wendy Carrillo are asking themselves, “if not now, when? if not me, who?” Carrillo shared that since the election, more than 4,000 women have said they are running for office. Brittany Packnett spoke about the discipline and daily work activism takes to not just “battle” but “build.” Bellamy Young, best known for her role as Mellie Grant on Shonda Rhimes’s “Scandal,” was heartened that “democracy is getting its capital D back,” and becoming a verb again instead of just a noun.