News: BC Politics, Gender Equity
Minister Lisa Beare puts up $175,000 to promote education and awareness of systemic bias, while Oscar-winner Geena Davis drove the message of gender equity home at recent Women on Top Conference.
By The Ex-Press
VANCOUVER, BC — British Columbia’s coalition government is putting some money where the #metoo movement is by funding $175,000-worth of new initiatives to improve workplace safety and awareness regarding abuse, discrimination and harassment.
Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture made the announcement at Whistler Film Festival’s “Woman on Top” Vancouver luncheon Friday. “The #MeToo movement has elevated awareness that abuse, discrimination and harassment are serious problems globally,” said Beare. “Our government is deeply committed to ensuring that the people working in B.C.’s creative industries are protected. That’s why I’m implementing new measures to promote safe, respectful workplaces for workers in the creative sector, in partnership with our provincial agencies, Creative BC, the B.C. Arts Council and Knowledge Network.”
Creative BC will allocate the funding as part of its larger role as public administrator. It will also create toolkits and other educational materials to promote “safety, diversity and equity in the creative sector.” Eligible organizations can apply for up to $15,000 in grants for “respectful workplace training.”
As part of the new strategy, the ministry announced it was also changing the guidelines for all grant applicants: “Organizations must now commit to ensuring their workplaces are free from bullying and harassment to qualify for funding.”
The remarks were well-received by the sold-out crowd of female professionals gathered at the Sutton Place ballroom for the main attraction: Actress Geena Davis. The Oscar-winner talked about gender equity and how those in entertainment are in a unique position to change things.
“Think about this. In nearly every sector of society that has a huge gender disparity, how long will it take for us to fix that?” she queried. “I mean we can’t snap our fingers. It’s going to take lots of work. So how are we going to conquer this unconscious gender bias in all of us? Here’s my theory of change. There’s one category of gross gender inequality that can be fixed overnight and it’s on-screen.”
The movies can help us visualize what the future looks like, she said.
“The media can be the cure for the problem that it’s creating. In other words, we can create a future now for what we see on screen. Yes, there aren’t enough women CEOs in the world, well, what if we made half of them women in movies. What if we made half the people on boards women on television? How can we get the number of women interested in the STEM fields that we need? All the gaps in employment? There could be loads of women on screen in STEM, and that would change it,” she said.
The movies can help us visualize what the future looks like…
“We did a study… and the one job that was very well represented among women was forensic scientist. I don’t have to lobby anyone there… but the percentage of women studying forensic science in real life has skyrocketed. Seventy-five percent of people studying forensic science in college now are women, because they saw it on TV. So if they see it, they can be it… it’s literally true.”
Davis said over the time she’s been talking about gender equity to peer groups, a lot has already changed. She said programmers are more aware of the product they select, and business leaders are more conscious of diversity in the power echelon.
“All of us can do something… You are all agents of change. You are all powerful,” she told the group of Vancouver notables.
“We can start by realizing the powerful impact popular culture has had on us to create this unconscious bias. No one escaped it. We all have it. Men and women. But it’s nearly impossible to claim that you hire purely based on merit unless you are prepared to pull back the curtain… Because it’s very deep. But these are exciting times. Something new is in the air….”
Main photo: Geena Davis and Lisa Beare at Whistler Film Festival’s Women on Top Luncheon at Vancouver’s Sutton Place Friday. Credit: Gordan Dumka
THE EX-PRESS, June 18, 2018