Symposiums on Gender in Media

Global Symposium 2014 Los Angeles Bios

Keynote Speakers & Panelists • Los Angeles • Oct. 6, 2014

Geena Davis

Founder and Chair

Academy Award winner Geena Davis is one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, appearing in several roles that became cultural landmarks. Earning the 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama, Davis broke ground in her portrayal of the first female President of the United States in ABC’s hit show Commander in Chief.

In 1989, Davis received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the offbeat dog trainer Muriel Pritchett in Lawrence Kasdan’s The Accidental Tourist.  She was again nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance in Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, in which she co-starred with Susan Sarandon.  Davis went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of baseball phenomenon Dottie Hinson in A League of Their Own.

Davis made her feature film debut starring opposite Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie.  She went on to star in such films as The Fly, Beetlejuice, Angie, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Stuart Little.

Few have achieved such remarkable success in as many different fields as Davis has: she is not only an Oscar and Golden Globe winning actor, but a world-class athlete (at one time the nation’s 13th-ranked archer), a member of the genius society Mensa, and is becoming recognized for her tireless advocacy of women and girls nearly as much as for her acting accomplishments. She is the founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which engages film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters — and reduce gender stereotyping — in media made for children 11 and under.

Davis was appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in ICT for the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  Davis is also an official partner of UN Women, working toward their goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women worldwide.Davis is the Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women.

Davis holds honorary degrees from Boston University, Bates College and New England College.

Ashok Amritraj

Chairman and CEO, Hyde Park Entertainment

An internationally renowned Award winning film Producer, Ashok Amritraj has produced or executive produced over 100 films during the span of his 30-year career, with a worldwide gross in excess of $2 billion. He has partnered with every major studio in Hollywood, and produced films starring the likes of Bruce Willis, Sandra Bullock, Sylvester Stallone, Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Martin, Antonio Banderas, Robert DeNiro, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Aniston, Nicolas Cage, Andrew Garfield and many more.

In addition to his work in the entertainment business, Amritraj spends much of his time on his philanthropic endeavors worldwide. Amritraj is currently hosting a 7 part TV series titled " Chance Of A Lifetime" in Partnership with the United Nations , The UCLA/Burkle Global Initiative, and Image Nation Abu Dhabi. The show brings diverse cultures together to create a unified vision on crucial social issues based on the Millennium Development Goals of the UN. COAL aired on Pivot in the US and National Geographic, internationally.

Amritraj was a former tennis professional, having played in every major tennis event including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Fernaz Azmoodeh

Staff Software Engineer, Google

Farnaz Azmoodeh is a Software Engineering lead at Google Inc, where she manages a team working on content classification. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Sharif University, in Iran before coming to the US to pursue a PhD degree in Computer Science at USC (University of Southern California). During her graduate studies, she focused on Geospatial and Multidimensional Data Management. Farnaz is particularly interested in improving women involvement in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) through engaging students from early childhood

Kristine Belson

Producer, DreamWorks

Kristine Belson most recently produced the Academy Award®-nominated original film, The Croods, which was has grossed over $587 million at the worldwide box-office. Prior to The Croods, Belson served as Executive Producer of the Academy Award®-nominated film, How to Train Your Dragon.

Belson came to DreamWorks Animation with more than 15 years’ experience developing and producing both live-action and animated films. She spent eight years as Executive Vice President of Production at the Jim Henson Company. During her tenure, she developed a slate of more than 40 live-action and animated films. In addition, she served as an Executive Producer on Muppets from Space, producer on Good Boy! and Co-Producer on Five Children and It and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.

Prior to joining The Jim Henson Company, Belson held the post of Senior Vice President of Production for Columbia Pictures, overseeing such films as Big Daddy and Spice World. Before her stint at Columbia, she served as Senior Vice President for Turner Pictures, and also spent two years as Director of Production at 20th Century Fox

Nanette Braun

Chief, Communications and Advocacy, UN Women

Nanette Braun is Chief, Communications and Advocacy at UN Women, the organization that serves as a global champion for women and girls and newest member of the UN family. She has worked on women’s rights for the past 12 years. Before joining the UN, she worked as a journalist, mainly for print media in her native Germany and abroad, with a focus on humanitarian and development issues.

Ben Cosgrove

President of Production, 2929 Productions

Ben Cosgrove is President of Production at 2929 Productions, where he produced Deadfall starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, and Charlie Hunnam and Serena, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, directed by Oscar winner Susanne Bier.

Ben previously served as Senior Vice President of Production at Paramount Pictures. At Paramount, he supervised Dreamgirls, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and The Fighter. Among the projects he developed were Interstellar with Chris Nolan, Dune with Pete Berg, Lost City of Z with Brad Pitt and James Gray, Nick Tungsten with Doug Liman, and What Men Want with Cameron Diaz.

Previously, Cosgrove was president of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh’s production company Section Eight, where he produced The Good German and Rumor Has It… and served as executive producer of such films as Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana, A Scanner Darkly, The Jacket, Criminal and Welcome to Collinwood. He also served as associate producer on Insomnia. Additional Section Eight productions include Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, Far From Heaven and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

Cosgrove’s first job in the entertainment industry was as a freelance reader at TriStar Pictures, where he ultimately became Director of Creative Affairs. At TriStar he worked on numerous projects including Jumanji, The Mask of Zorro and Devil in a Blue Dress.

Cosgrove graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in English Literature.

Nikkole Denson-Randolph

Vice President, Specialty & Alternative Content, AMC Theatres

Nikkole Denson-Randolph oversees strategic development and implementation of AMC’s specialty programming efforts and initiatives, as well as alternative content programming, which includes overseeing AMC’s relationship with Fathom Events and settling film rentals with independent distributors. Previously, Denson-Randolph orchestrated the launch of AMC Independent and led exhibitor negotiations in the release of Kevin Hart’s hit stand-up comedy film Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain. The film’s theatrically-exclusive distribution model was one of the biggest independent film success stories of 2011.

She also led negotiations for other AMC-exclusive releases including: Mindless Behavior: All Around The World and Moozlum starring Nia Long. Previously Denson-Randolph served as the Director of Business Development for the Starbucks Coffee Company, and as President of Magic Johnson Entertainment and President of Magic Hallway Pictures.

Elizabeth Frank

Chief Content & Programming Officer, AMC Theatres

Elizabeth Frank has worked in the media and entertainment industry for over 20 years, with Time Warner, McKinsey & Company, Viacom, and Vestron. She joined AMC Theatres in 2010 to lead corporate development and strategic planning, including the transition from private equity ownership to publicly-traded (NYSE)/majority-controlled (Beijing-based Wanda Group). She currently serves as AMC’s Chief Content & Programming Officer, responsible for the sourcing, scheduling, buying, and promotion of films, as well as maximizing AMC’s industry relationships strategically. Frank serves on the Board of Directors for Open Road Films (independent film distributor), Fathom Events (alternative content distributor), Digital Content Delivery Coalition (satellite delivery service provider), and AmeriCares (global health non-profit).

Frank and her husband live with their three children in Kansas City, Missouri.

Camela Galano

President, Relativity International

Camela Galano has served as President of Relativity International since January 2013, overseeing global sales, marketing and distribution management of Relativity’s own titles, acquisitions and third-party releases. The veteran international film executive was previously the Founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based global sales and distribution company Speranza13 Media. Before that, she served as President of International Film Acquisitions for Warner Bros., where she acquired such box-office hits as The Hunger Games and District 9 for select territories.

Prior to joining Warner Bros., Galano was President of International Sales, Marketing & Distribution for New Line Cinema. There she oversaw record-breaking results on such titles as the Lord of the Rings, Austin Powers, Blade, Rush Hour and Final Destination, franchises, as well as hits Seven and Wedding Crashers. Galano opened New Line’s London-based international sales office, which she ran for six years, and oversaw international distribution for Picturehouse, a joint venture between New Line Cinema and HBO Films, and Material Entertainment, a joint venture between New Line and Entertainment Film.

She is a longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

Elissa Murphy

CTO and Executive Vice President, Go Daddy

As CTO, Elissa is leading GoDaddy’s evolution toward a powerful and unified platform for small business. Elissa came to GoDaddy in 2013 from Yahoo!, where as Vice President of Engineering she oversaw the world’s largest private Hadoop cluster, a technology essential to massive-scale computing that is literally the basis of the definition of big data today.

Prior to her time at Yahoo!, Elissa spent 13 years at Microsoft in various engineering positions including High Performance Computing. She began her technology career designing and building many of the best-selling computer security and system utilities with 5th Generation Systems, Quarterdeck and the Norton Group, a division at Symantec responsible for Norton Antivirus and other Norton products.

Elissa brings expertise in global-scale platforms, big data and predictive analytics. She currently has 15 patents issued and more than 19 patents pending in the areas of distributed systems, cloud, machine learning and security.

Cathy Schulman

President, Mandalay Pictures

Cathy Schulman is a veteran producer and film executive. Currently President of Mandalay Pictures, where she oversees the company’s studio and independent pictures, Schulman’s background includes executive jobs at companies including Sovereign Pictures, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Savoy Pictures and APG, as well as Sundance, where she was co-director of programming in the late 80s and early 90s. Schulman has produced 18 films including Crash, for which she won the Best Picture Academy Award in 2006, The Illusionist, Thumbsucker, Darfur Now, and Bernie.

In early 2015, Schulman will produce the Mandalay Film “Whatever Makes You Happy”, based on the novel by William Sutcliffe, written and to be directed by Emmy® Award Winner Cindy Chupack. Susan Sarandon, Viola Davis, Allison Janney and James Corden will star.

Schulman’s Mandalay film When the Game Stands Tall is in theaters now, released by Sony Pictures. Recently, Schulman completed Mandalay’s Horns, directed by Alex Aja, starring Daniel Radcliffe and based on Joe Hill’s best selling novel. The film will be released by Dimension / RADiUS-TWC on Halloween, 2014. Schulman also recently wrapped Marjane Satrapi’s latest film The Voices, starring Ryan Reynolds, Jacki Weaver, Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick. Schulman is also in post production on Dark Places, based on Gillian Flynn’s best selling novel, directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner and starring Charlize Theron, Chloe Moretz, Nicholas Hoult and Christina Hendricks.

Active in the industry, Schulman is the President of Women In Film, a Board Member of Film Independent and has served as a Council Member of the Producers Guild of America. She is also a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, a USC Stark Program producer’s mentor and teaches graduate level film producing at UCLA and the Dodge College of Film Media and Arts at Chapman University, where she was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate. She has also served as a judge for the prestigious Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards. She is a notable industry spokesperson and public speaker, who gave the commencement address for the 2013 graduates of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and will give the 2014 commencement address at Dodge College. She is a graduate of Yale University, with a double major in Theater Studies and History of Art. She is the mother of one daughter and resides in Los Angeles, California.

Stacy Smith, PhD

Associate Professor, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Stacy L. Smith (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1999) joined the USC Annenberg faculty in the fall of 2003. Her research focuses on 1) content patterns pertaining to gender and race on screen in film and TV; 2) employment patterns behind-the-camera in entertainment; 3) barriers and opportunities facing women on screen and behind-the-camera in studio and independent films; and 4) children’s responses to mass media portrayals (television, film, video games) of violence, gender and hypersexuality.

Dr. Smith has written more than 75 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on content patterns and effects of the media. She has received multiple "top paper" awards for her research from the Instructional Developmental Division of the International Communication Association. In terms of the popular press, Dr. Smith’s research has been written about in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety,,, The Boston Globe, and USA Today to name a few. She also has a co-edited essay in Maria Shriver’s book, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything (2009).

Since 2005, Dr. Smith has been working with a team of undergraduate and graduate students to assess portrayals of males and females in popular media. Over two-dozen projects have been completed, assessing gender in films (e.g., 500+ top-grossing movies from 1990 to 2009, 180 Academy Award® Best Picture nominations from 1977 to 2010), TV shows (e.g., 1,034 children’s programs, two weeks of prime time shows), video games (e.g., 60 best selling), and point-of-purchase advertising (e.g., jacket covers of DVDs, video games).

Examining 5,839 characters, a recent study of 129 top grossing G, PG, and PG-13 films theatrically released between 2006 and 2011 showed that less than 30% of all on screen speaking characters are girls or women. The ratio of males to females on the silver screen is 2.53 to 1. Other findings revealed that females are still more likely than males to be depicted in a stereotypical (i.e., caregivers, romantically involved, lacking employment) and hypersexualized (i.e., sexy attire, nudity, thinness) light. Further, females are far less likely to be shown in films as holding clout and powerful positions in political (e.g., Senators, Representatives), financial (e.g., CEO, CFO, COO, GM), or legal (Supreme Count Justices) arenas.

While on screen portrayals are skewed, the percentage of females working behind-the-scenes is even more abysmal. Across 1,100 top-grossing films between 2002 and 2012, only 4.4% of directors are female. This investigation also examined the total number of unique directors after removing individuals that helmed more than one film. In comparison to the 625 unique male directors, only 41 unique females emerged across the 11-year sample. This translates into a gender ratio of 15.24 males to every 1 female director!

Smith et al.’s (2013) recent research reveals that the independent sphere is more female friendly. Commissioned by the Sundance Institute/Women in Film in Summer of 2012, Smith are her research team assessed female involvement as content creators at the Sundance Film Festival between 2002 and 2012. Across 11 years, 16.9% of all directors, 20.6% of all writers, and 29.4% of all producers of U.S. narratives are females. These percentages are all substantially higher than those found in some of Smith’s earlier work on top grossing studio films or Academy Award® Best Picture Nominated Films. The Sundance study also qualitatively explored barriers facing female directors and producers in the independent space, with gendered financial impediments, a male dominated environment, and work family conflict the three most frequently mentioned obstacles by the 51 content creators and industry thought leaders interviewed.

Given these and other similar statistics from her lab, Smith’s recent research (with Rene Weber & Marc Choueiti) has focused on the economic success at the box office of feature films with women on screen and behind-the-scenes as well as interviewing over 110 content creators (i.e., directors, writers, producers, executives, etc.) about the reasons for the under representation and hypersexualization of girls and women in popular movies. Funding for Dr. Smith’s research has come from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Sundance Institute, and See Jane.

Currently, Dr. Smith is the director of a research-driven initiative at USC Annenberg on Media, Diversity, and Social Change. The initiative produces cutting-edge, timely, and theory-driven empirical research on different entertainment-based minority groups. Roughly 20-30 undergraduate and graduate students are conducting research on gender and race in her lab each year. Educators, advocates, and activists can access and use the research to create sustainable industry change on screen and behind-the-camera.

In addition to research, Dr. Smith is passionate about teaching. She currently teaches the undergraduate COMM 203 – Introduction to Mass Communication course at USC Annenberg. Dr. Smith has been recognized for her outstanding teaching, receiving multiple awards from different constituencies on campus. She has received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Annenberg Students Communication Association three times, the Greek Professor of the Semester Award, the Golden Apple Award from Kappa Alpha Theta twice, the Professor of the Year Award from Gamma Alpha Sigma, and was recognized as an Honorary Member of Lambda Pi Eta. In 2009, Dr. Smith received the Outstanding Teacher and Mentor Award from the Parents’ Council at USC. Mortar Board at USC has also tapped her. In 2012, Dr. Smith received the Trojan League of Southern California 2012 Outstanding Service Award and the LA Woman recognition by Los Angeles Magazine.

Stewart Till

Director, Sonar Entertainment

Stewart Till is currently a Director of Sonar Entertainment (previously known as RHI and before that, Hallmark Entertainment), the LA and New York-based television production and worldwide distribution company who specialize in scripted television drama. From March 2012 to May 2014, he was Chief Executive, bringing the company into profit. Despite inheriting a very thin development slate, he was responsible for greenlighting Tom Hardy’s Taboo, South of Hell (with Jason Blum, Jim Manos and Eli Roth) and Shannara with MTV (with Al Gough and Miles Millar attached as showrunners). Other of his projects which will go into production in 2014 include Fix It Men (Mark Gordon and Joe Carnahan) with TNT, and The Son (based on Philipp Meyer’s award-winning novel) with AMC. 

He is Chair of Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the UK’s Audio-Visual Industries. Until August 2009 he was Chairman of the UK Film Council, the body established by the Government to manage the lottery monies and grants they allocated to the UK film industry.

Linda Woolverton

Script Writer

While working as a development executive at CBS, Linda Woolverton wrote two young adult novels: Star Wind and Running Before the Wind. After her books were published by Houghton Mifflin, she began to write full time.

She started by writing scripts for animated television shows. When one of her novels caught the attention of a Disney executive, she was hired to write the script for the animated feature, Beauty and the Beast. Upon its release in 1991, the film won the Golden Globe for the Best Comedy/Musical and became the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. She also wrote the screenplay for The Lion King, rewrote the script for Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and wrote on the animated feature Mulan.

She went on to adapt the script of Beauty and the Beast for the Broadway stage and received the Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical in 1994.

Linda Woolverton’s script for Alice In Wonderland directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, was released in March of 2010. The film grossed over 1 billion dollars worldwide.

In 2008, Linda received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America-Animation Writers Caucus for her longtime work in the field of animation.

Woolverton’s screenplay for Disney’s Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie was released in May of 2014. She has recently completed Through the Looking Glass for Disney which is in production in the UK. She is currently working with Ron Howard on a television pilot for LIFETIME.

Lareina Yee

Partner, McKinsey & Company

Lareina Yee is a Partner in McKinsey & Company’s San Francisco Office. Over her 13 years with McKinsey she has been a part of the Greater China and West Coast Offices. She is a leader of McKinsey’s Sales & Marketing Practice, specializing in commercial sales and marketing transformation. She primarily works with leading technology companies on sales growth acceleration, data analytics, new product commercialization, and key account management.

Lareina also leads McKinsey’s “Women in the Economy” initiative which provides insights on how companies can unlock the full potential of women’s talent in their organizations.  Lareina and her team work with companies to improve gender balance and surface leading practices of companies who see better results. This initiative has included collaborations with organizations ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Clinton Global Initiative.  Lareina is a frequent speaker on the topic including the Makers Conference, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, and Women’s Forum for Economy & Society in France . Lareina is also a champion of McKinsey’s own Lean-In circles and a host of McKinsey’s Annual Women’s Leadership Summit.

Lareina graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College and received her Masters from Columbia University where she was Javitz Fellow and a Henry Luce Scholar.  She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two boys.