2016 NCWIT Summit – Reel WiT Award

LUCY SANDERS: And now I’m gonna hand the reigns over to the wonderful Mo Fong, she’s going to MC the final plenary session. Mo is a director for K-12 education outreach at Google, she works to address systemic issues in education and to inspire more girls and underrepresented minorities to combine their passions with computer science and STEM fields. She has a BS in Chemical Engineering and an MA in Education from Standford. I’m sorry, an MBA from Harvard Business School. Google’s a great partner of NCWIT and the NCWIT community, please welcome Mo to the stage. [audience applauds] [upbeat music]

MO PHONG: Thank you, Lucy. I love the energy still in this room. So can we give a round of applause to Lucy and the entire NCWIT staff? [audience applauds] This summit has been so energizing and I think my mind was completely blown. Especially yesterday with Melissa Harris-Perry, my favorite quote of the day is, “Rules are just guidelines.” That was topic of conversation at lunch for sure. It’s wonderful to be here. As Lucy mentioned I am a proud member of NCWIT and the Director for K-12 Outreach at Google. And the conversation we’re gonna be having today is very appropriate with the award winner from the Flash Tank. Being in media this all about media in some ways, because we know that perceptions of computer science and also computer scientists is extremely important to a girl’s decision to choose CS. And our research in this area of women who choose CS bears this out as well. So we know that there’s tremendous bias in society at large about who does tech and what does it look like. And we’re also aware that the role of Hollywood is really important and can correct this bias. We wanna know that why this particular problem is so important is because if we can see images like ourselves and as Geena Davis also says, “If we can see it, we can be it.” And this is what we’re trying to do. So that’s why NCWIT and Google continue to include popular media in our collective missions. And we agree it is important to recognize those in media who are carrying the torch to change the narratives and the images of technologists on screen. So we have a new award this year, the ReelWIT Award spelled R-E-E-L dash W-I-T. And it’s a collaboration between Google, NCWIT, and the Geena Davis Institute. And we’re thrilled about this partnership. So here to talk about the award and announce the winners of the 2016 ReelWIT award is Madeline Di Nonno, who is the CEO of the Geena Davis Institute. Madeline is in charge of world domination [audience chuckles] at the Geena Davis Institute and I think she can do it. And in her world this means that we wanna make sure that every TV and movie that targets families is gender-balanced. And make sure that these gender-balanced roles are inspirational and have dynamic female characters and lead roles. So please welcome Madeline Di Nonno to the stage and she will present our awards. [audience applauds]

MADELINE DI NONNO: So it’s such an honor to be here and I actually have a background in digital. I launched the first ever website for Universal, launched DVD-ROM back in the early nineties. So my background is really 30 years in the entertainment and digital media space versus non-profit. So I’m so thrilled to be here. We love our partnership with Mo and Google and we’re so thrilled about NCWIT. You’re never gonna get rid of us, ever. [audience laughs] So as MO was saying and actually when she said the world domination thing is actually true, so when Geena found me, ’cause it was an accident how she started this thing, she was watching programming with her daughter, she didn’t see any female characters, she asked her friends did you see any female characters? They said no. She’d go on meetings with studio headings, did you see any female characters? They said no and she thought well, I think I need research. She’s in MENSA, she’s very competitive, and that’s how this whole thing got started. So at a point in time as she was developing her theory of change as an actor figuring out okay, what am I gonna do with this non-profit? She wanted to hire a business person who also had non-profit experience. And when we met, after speaking I said to her well what do you want? And she said world domination. So Mo, literally that’s what we’ve been doing for the past almost seven years. So is anyone familiar with the work of the Geena Davis Institute? All right. [audience members applaud] Such an enlightened crowd, I love it. So among the research that we did, we decided to do a content analysis around STEM, because we thought okay there’s very few female characters, they tend to be hyper-sexualized, but maybe they have a job. So not only did we look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics categories of business, everyone kept asking us about STEM. The White House was asking us about STEM, Google was asking us about STEM. We thought well the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t really break out STEM, but let’s see what we could do. And so we looked at family films, primetime TV shows, and kids programming. And we broke it out in terms of fourish categories. So we had life sciences, which is just doctors, which we have plenty of those. And then we looked at computer science, we looked at mathematics, and we looked at other which is like galaxies far, far away. And that’s how we broke it down and unfortunately, it was either zero or maybe 5% across any of these categories. In the young kids programming it was mostly zeros. And the only place where we did see STEM was in the life sciences and as you know the future is in computer science, as much as we love having women doctors. So we’re really not showing our boys or our girls from a media perspective that this is an advantageous and also very attractive career. And how that boils up is about a 15 to one ratio of male characters to female characters across all those categories. And it’s essentially only 17% and we know that women are far more, I think women are what over 20, 30% of tech jobs? So that’s kinda how we go to that. And we’ve been partnering with Google for a number of years and where we really dovetail is trying to not only get more female presence, but get more female presence in un-stereotypical roles. So when Mo and our pals at Google cooked up this partnership for the award, Gina and I were thrilled about it. And what we decided for this year and hopefully this will be an annual thing and get bigger, is to look at programming, best female character in STEM that was un-stereotypical in either TV or YouTube, a moving image. And we decided to break it down into fiction and non-fiction. And so without further ado, we’re really excited in the category of non-fiction we awarded it to CodeGirl and we’re really fortunate to have Lesley Chilcott here who’s the producer and filmmaker. So round of applause for Lesley. [audience applauds] Is there an award? Oh, is this it? At least it’s not too heavy, she can actually pack it in her suitcase.

LESLEY CHILCOTT: Thank you. Yay. [audience applauds] All right. Cool, you want a picture first? Okay. This is really cool. I got my start, well first of all let me back up. Thank you to the Geena Davis Institute and to NCWIT. Before I came I was calling it N-C-W-I-T, but now that I’ve been here for 24 hours I’m cooler and I can say it properly. So I’m gonna use this vernacular as much as I can. And I would love to thank everyone at NCWIT for coming up with this award. And I have to say I started my career at MTV as a production assistant and I was fortunate enough to work on, fortunate or unfortunate enough, to work on a show called the MTV Movie Awards which is now turned into a big annual awards show. But we actually sat around in a conference room and said what are the weirdest, most obscure categories we can have that aren’t like normal award shows? And we came up with best action sequence and best on-screen duo and all sorts of things, but where was best representation of women in tech or women in STEM? Like we clearly missed a very important category. So I’ll have to talk to them about that. [audience applauds] Speaking of clever, it’s really exciting win a new award, a brand new award. But I think this is especially clever because Mo and I were talking beforehand and decades ago we weren’t thinking hey, how do we make a change in society? Well the best way to do that is to write that into a script on television. On the one hand it’s a little bit absurd, on the other hand showing positive role models in TV and in films, the amount of influence it can wield is really inspiring. And that’s why I decided to make CodeGirl. About three years ago a new non-profit launched called code.org which some of you probably know about. And I was asked to make a short film for that. We posted it on YouTube and it was starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, and Jack Dorsey from Twitter, and Drew Houston from Dropbox, and we thought wouldn’t it be cool if like a couple thousand people watch this? And much to my surprise it ended up going viral. We had different versions in different places, but within a week over 20 million people saw it. And I thought wow, 20 million people are paying attention to computer science. And while I’d been making this micro-film for code.org I stumbled upon this group that had a contest called the Technovation Challenge and it’s one thing to talk about all the dismal statistics that we’re all very aware of, in fact as you know approximately 7% of tech companies are founded by women, it’s about the same in the film industry. About 7% of feature films are directed by women and there’s a lot of parallels in the statistics. And I have really seen a sea change in this last year. For example I was directing a Gatorade commercial recently and I hadn’t done this deliberately, but I realized as we were shooting and I took a photo on International Women’s Day that I was female as a director, my producer was female, my director of photography was female, my entire camera department was female, my location scout was female, my production manager was female, all key roles were filled by women. And there were like four guys on the set. And when I started there were two women on set and I hadn’t even made that conscious choice. Of course this is an issue for me so I’m sure it occurred somewhere, but we looked around and we were like wow, all the agency people from the agency and the client were largely women. So I feel like there’s a lot of hope and what I’ve seen her in the last day and I what I hear is we’re all aware of the numbers and it’s time for action. And you guys are all taking great action. And I think that’s very, very impressive and inspiring. One last thing, there’s so many great groups to get women interested in coding now. And I wanna say something about Technovation in particular, because I am 100% supportive that women and everyone should take a coding lesson. And I also think that every teen should learn how to solve a problem using technology. But with Technovation, these girls commit three months of their lives. And before CodeGirl came out there were right around 5,000 people that participated in the contest. CodeGirl came out in November, the contest started in January, there were over 10,000 participants this year between the coaches, and the mentors, and the students. And this is a three month commitment. For those of you that saw the film, the girls as they go there are regionals before they make it to final and last year there where 11 regional events. This year there are 45. Technovation has a new partnership with UNESCO and they are really, really making a difference. So if you can, please right now put July 14th, actually oh wait, yes, July 14th on your schedules because World Pitch Night takes place every year in San Francisco. And in addition to the finalists, these teen finalists coming from all over the world, there are sponsorships for other teens and individuals and there are hundreds and hundreds of people going this year. You will not be able to leave without crying, men included. And these girls are just incredibly impressive. So I urge you to go and I’m very happy for the small part we played in the expansion of Technovation. And Madhavi are you here somewhere? Here, yes. So Madhavi is here from Technovation. So if you need more information about the contest you would like to attend, please mob her. She’s used to being mobbed by teen girls so this will be tame in comparison. And once again, I don’t wanna take too much time, but thank you Mo and thank you Madeline and thank you Michelle Leonard and everyone at NCWIT. And we have a clip that we’d love to play. [audience laughs] okay.

FEMALE: So we should start with the problem. [bright music]

18% of women engage in self-harm and 6% of men said the same.

FEMALE: Drunk-driving has plagued–

FEMALE: Real problems such as women’s safety, waste removal, and childhood obesity.

MALE: Who knows better the problems in the community than the people. A business in technology competition you have the ability to practice your English, learn some new things.

FEMALE: My computer science teacher sent out this huge email to all the students about Technovation.

FEMALE: Welcome to the Technovation World Pitch competition. [audience cheers and applauds]

But we need to find the girls who do it. [bright music] The most of girls were like no, computer science is for boys. [bright music]

Only 7% of tech startups are led by women.

And now I feel like I look everywhere, I’m like that’s a problem and this app could solve it.

This is the next social media button. [upbeat music]

We are sophomores and we are all 15 years old.

GIRLS: Join us to promote a cleaner, greener, and safer environment.

We wanna make it perfect.

An actual problem and finding a way to solve it. Like that is a really good feeling. [bright music] [applause] [bright music] [speaking in foreign language] [audience applauds]

LESLEY CHILCOTT: Can I say one more thing? Thank you. I just wanna add that the team from Nigeria that’s in the film that won last year, their app was an app that called for, there’s no local trash pickup and so you could call for a cart to be delivered, they’re actually working with the newly elected government, excuse me, on making this app happen. And another team from Orange County called Benefaction, which was a volunteer app, has a funder and is fully developing their app. And some of the teams from this year just got back from The White House Science Fair where they actually got to show their app to Vice President Biden and President Obama. So Technovation is more than just a lesson, it’s really changing these girls’ lives. So please check it out if you can. The film’s out, it’s on Netflix VOD if you haven’t had the chance to see it. So thank you very much, I am very honored. [audience applauds] We’re in Hollywood, we want our picture. Thank you. Thank you. [audience applauds]

MADELINE DI NONNO: So I just wanna pick up on something that Lesley said, she talked about hope, she talked about solutions and Google is all about solutions. And one of the things I wanted to frame is why is media so important? Because our kids are consuming upwards of seven hours a day. Kids under the age of eight are watching almost two hours a day of programming on a television set. They’re not on the internet yet. And so if you look at what influences a child, that pie, that slice of the pie, media is taking up a much bigger chunk. It’s more than sleeping, it’s more than going to school. So that’s why it’s even more critical that we have NCWIT and the ReelWIT awards. And in terms of the hope and solution, clearly this is a solution, because the entertainment industry loves awards. So once they know that they can get awarded for their STEM character, I think that’s definitely a great solution. But in terms of the pipeline, Lesley mentioned how she had unbelievable presence in terms of behind the screen. And right now it’s about a five to one ratio of males to females in terms of behind the camera. And one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that storytellers tell stories that are authentic. So it’s a five to one ratio of men to women behind the screen, of you’re not gonna have a lot of female presence. But in terms of the hope, what we have found is in doing our global research when there has been the presence of a female writer or director, like Lesley, we’ve seen anywhere from a 6.8 to a 7.5% increase in on screen roles. So there is absolutely a direct correlation. So now that leads us into our second role. The second award which we’re really, really thrilled about and this one is for a fictional character. So can anyone just guess what character they think it is? Anyone wanna shout it out? [audience members respond] What? [audience members respond] That’s right. So we’re really, really excited by the character of Rey for so many reasons. One, she saves herself. Number two, it’s a very un-stereotypical character. She uses technology, she’s a scientist. She’s everything that we could possibly want for a female character. Also we’re very proud of Bad Robot and J.J. Abrams and Kathy Kennedy because they are enlightened people. And I don’t know if any of you saw the new trailer for the next Star Wars, but again another female lead. And when you look at the box office there’s always been this myth in Hollywood about men won’t watch women, but women will watch everything. And Star Wars has blown that myth to smithereens. So what we wanted to do is we actually have a little video from Daisy Ridley and Kathy Kennedy that I think we wanted to show before we bring up our award recipient.

KATHY KENNEDY: Hello to everybody in the NCWIT community. There’s nothing more exciting than to carry on the saga of Star Wars. George Lucas created the great character of Leia and now to be able to create a new character with Rey and to have somebody like Daisy Ridley come along to inhabit that character in a way that goes well beyond what we ever imagined has been truly wonderful.

DAISY RIDLEY: Since the release of The Force Awakens the reaction to me and to Rey, who I play, has been absolutely amazing. I think in this current change within industries all over the world with women taking strong positions, it’s particularly exciting to play a character who is so at ease with technology and is so kind of inspirational.

KATHY KENNEDY: It’s really incredible the work that you continue to do to affect change in the industry. And to recognize Rey and Rey’s character inside The Force Awakens is something that little girls, women, all over the world will aspire to be. Keep up all the amazing work you’ve done, you’re really making a difference. I wish we could both be there in person with you, but we’re in the middle of shooting Episode Eight and both Daisy and I need to get out the stage door and jump on the Millennium Falcon and head back. So have a great seminar.

DAISY RIDLEY: Bye everyone.

KATHY KENNEDY: Bye everybody.

DAISY RIDLEY: May the force be with you.

KATHY KENNEDY: May the force be with you. [audience applauds]

MADELINE DI NONNO: So accepting the award on behalf of Lucas Film is Rayne Roberts, who is a creative executive at Lucas Film and we’ll bring her up. [audience applauds] [bright music]

RAYNE ROBERTS: Hi everyone. On behalf of Lucas Film and Disney, and everyone that worked on the film, thank you so much to the Geena Davis Institute and to NCWIT, got that now. [audience chuckles] Thank you for this ReelWIT award. I work in story development at Lucas Film so my role is to help develop the screenplays before we actually go over to London to Pinewood and actually turn them into films and to begin shooting. So when we were developing the character of Rey there were a couple of things that were really, really important to us. The fact that she was a woman was always never a question. A female heroine was a key component of the story that brought a lot of our lead creators in without hesitation. And everyone was excited about that idea. In fact it was something that was important to George Lucas. So it was also really important to us that she be capable, confident, technically-skilled, quick thinking, and self-sufficient ’cause these were attributes that would propel her through her journey in the story. And I’d like to add that we would have given these attributes to Rey if she had been a male character too and they weren’t specific to her being a woman, but we were just very interested in telling the story of a young person who had had to survive on their own for quite some time. And because of that had developed a grittiness and expertise to ensure her survival. And this is what you were kind of alluding to earlier was the best part with coming up with these characteristics for Rey was that they were instinctual to us, because half of the people that developed the characters and the story that became The Force Awakens were women. There was a big group of us that sat in the writers’ room for many, many months and half of us were women. And the other half were men that loved women. [laughing] So we didn’t have an agenda to create this accurate, politically correct woman, but we just did because we are women and this is what the women in our lives and ourselves were already like. And as you also mentioned, we’re incredibly thrilled because the main protagonist of our next film, our stand alone film Rogue One, a Start Wars Story, is also a woman. You’ll be able to see that film in theaters in December and we’re excited by what our new heroine, Jyn is her name, will bring to the Star Wars collection of storytelling of yet another representation of a badass female. [laughing] [audience applauds] Like Rey, Jyn will come on the heels of some of our other legendary protagonists including General Leia Organa, and Hera Syndulla, Sabine Wren, and Ahsoka Tano from our animated series Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars the Clone Wars, which we’ll hear more about in a bit when my colleague Dave gets up. And never fear as you see, you’ll be able to catch up with Rey some more in December 2017 when Star Wars Episode Eight hits theaters. We’re just about halfway through shooting. So at Lucas Film we are committed to understanding incredible power of story. And telling stories about women that are authentic and aspirational is massively important to us. And it means a great deal to us to be recognized by such an impactful organization such as NCWIT. Finally on a personal note, it’s really, really special for me to accept this award on behalf of our team at Lucas Film because coincidentally my own mother, Carol Roberts, was a systems engineer. [audience members cheer] [Rayne laughs] [audience applauds] She was a technical manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for 15 years. She also worked at Xerox, Northrup, and Laquit Aerospace during her career. And she owned and operated her own computer consulting firm. She was a huge role model for me and allowed me to feel I could do anything so being at this conference is special to me on many levels. So again from everyone at Lucas Film and Disney, from J.J. and our screenwriters, Larry Kasdan and Michael Ardnt, and Kathleen Kennedy, and the entire crew of The Force Awakens, thank you again for the incredible work you’re doing to champion the women in information technology and thank you for this award. May the force be with you. [audience applauds] [audience laughs] [audience applauds]

MO PHONG: That was fantastic. Congratulations to our ReelWIT award winners.

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