Last week, as an affiliated faculty member of USC’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative, I had the opportunity to host a summit on breaking down gender stereotypes in children’s media and toys at the WHITE HOUSE. Yes… THE White House!
I was honored to be a part of this historical and unprecedented conversation, where we gathered thought leaders, experts, and innovators from a wide range of industries and specialties because, as I always say, change is a “we” thing and we can all play a role in bettering the futures and opportunities of all children.
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls began the day with a sentiment I deeply share:
“Changing culture is not necessarily easy and doesn’t happen over night, but we can do it if we work together.”
Sarah Hurwitz, Special Assistant to the President, Senior Policy and Strategy Advisor to the Council on Women and Girls, and Senior Presidential Speechwriter
Sarah was my amazing co-collaborator on this event. She writes speeches for POTUS and FLOTUS by day and then in her spare time helps to create culture changing events with me! #SOLUCKY #POWERDUO
I moderated the first panel of the day: Kids These Days: What’s Going on in the Lives of Boys and Girls Today?
On this panel I offered my leading insight on today’s girls – we call her: The “Yes, And” Girl.
The “Yes, And” girl is additive not reductive – she loves politics AND painting her nails. She plays with dolls AND science kits. Yet we don’t always see our girls reflected like that in mainstream media.
In fact, girls have always been exceptional; we just haven’t been telling exceptional stories about them.
Five other experts joined me on the panel, each bringing uniquely insightful perspectives to the room regarding boys and girls. We started the day talking about boys – their inner emotional lives. The research presented was compelling and panelist’s agreed: It’s time to redefine boyhood to include more relational and social engagement for our boys.
Dr. Lisa Dinella (left) and Dr. Elizabeth Sweet (right)
One of the highlights of the day was showcasing the wonderful research by academics in the field of toys and media. They are leading the way for progress in their fields by exploring how toys, media, and gender stereotypes impact child development.
Later, I moderated a case studies panel where industry leaders talked about meeting the demand for challenging gender stereotypes. Mattel, Disney, LEGO, Warner Bros, DC entertainment, and littleBits shared how their companies are evolving to meet the needs of parents and children with products that better reflect today’s culture.
There can often be a disparity between the leaders in media and business and the consumers that they are trying to reach, so having parent voices and advocacy groups in the room helps to bridge that gap. By bringing all of these stakeholders together, we come closer to finding solutions where everyone can participate in breaking down gender stereotypes for our children.
Chatting new ally, actor Matt McGorry!
You may love his work on “Orange is the New Black” or “How to Get Away with Murder” but I love how Matt’s been wonderful in using his platform to talk about Feminism.
Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls
Without her support, this day wouldn’t have been possible. Plus – that smile KILLS me. 🙂
Megan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer
Megan closed out our day with an incredibly inspiring talk about inclusivity – she highlighted all of the amazing women who have been behind our greatest technological advances but are often left out of mainstream media storytelling. She was also part of the original iPhone creation team with Steve Jobs!!
Overall: The day was truly magical: people courageously putting themselves out there, voicing their beliefs, and challenging the status quo. I witnessed so many passionate individuals coming together for a wide array of reasons but one shared purpose: breaking down gender stereotypes so that our children can live without limits.
Last week served as a reminder for me just how much is possible when we work together. #ChangeIsaWeThing