Lena Dunham Made a Major Ask of the Female Leaders in Hollywood

Lena Dunham made a major ask of the female leaders in Hollywood

Lena Dunham's speech Annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast

Need a surefire way to wake up in the morning? Attend a breakfast with Lena Dunham. Earlier this week, at The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast, which coincides with the release of their Women in Entertainment Power 100 list, the writer, actress, director, and producer took the stage to get things going in a major way. “Some girls who grew up in the ’90s dreamt of a luxury cruise with N’Sync, but my fantasy has always been a room full of Hollywood power bitches enjoying breakfast foods.”

If you think about Hollywood in 2015, it truly has been the year when everyone realized that a lack of equality among male and female actors existed. From Jennifer Lawrence’s bold essay in Dunham’s newsletter Lenny to other top actresses like Reese Witherspoon, Amanda Seyfried, and Jessica Chastain coming clean about their salary discrepancies and blatant sexism experiences, women were finally speaking up.

Dunham continued, “I want to thank all of you for brilliantly and stylishly cleaning up the mess that Hollywood has made of equality and diversity. After all, isn’t that historically what women have been asked to do to, clean up messes that don’t belong to them?” In addition to women proving themselves to be box office powerhouses (Lawrence, obviously) and Oscar-winning machines (Lawrence, again, and Witherspoon, of course), women are still getting lesser deals compared to their male co-stars. At Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards in November, Witherspoon said, “Our company [Pacific Standard Films] isn’t just thriving because it feels like a good thing to do. It’s thriving because female-driven films work. This year alone, Trainwreck with Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy’s Spy, Pitch Perfect 2, Cinderella, the Hunger Games franchise, those made over $2.2 billion worldwide. Films with women at the center are not a public service project, they are a big-time, bottom-line-enhancing, money-making commodity.”

And yet the availability of roles and projects for women are still far and few between. Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters director Paul Feig told Variety earlier this year that the paychecks will improve when the dearth of roles for women do. “I don’t know how we got so behind-the-times in a town that fancies itself on being so liberal and forward thinking,” he said.

Dunham, who made the power list for the second time in a row, did commend television for being a more opportune place for women, thanks to the guiding forces of women like Shonda Rhimes and Transparent creator Jill Soloway.

Toward the end of her speech, Dunham made a plea to the female executives in the room—including Bonnie Hammer, Chairman of NBC Universal Cable, and Donna Langley, movie executive, and Chairman of Universal Pictures—to be mentors to the younger women in the industry, just as the late, great Nora Ephron had done for her. She also asked them to try to help more women, minorities, and LGBTQ people share their stories and take on jobs that have historically been done by “white dudes in polar fleeces.”

“I am not advocating for a world where women erase men from the workplace, as pleasurable as that might be for me on certain days,” she said. “I am advocating for all of us here to make it our mission to use our resources and turn this around as a team … It’s the right thing to do and it’s the only thing to do.” Who needs coffee when you’ve got Lena Dunham?

Meredith Lepore

Meredith is the former editor in chief of the women's career site, The Grindstone. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire @ Work, The Jane Dough, DailyWorth, SheKnows.com, Business Insider and Learnvest. She earned her Masters in Magazine, Newspaper and Online journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Meredith resides in New York full time and enjoys reading, jogging, SoulCycle and playing with her small dog, Otis.

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