This is a post about race and gender. As you make your way through it you may find that you disagree or agree. You may want to share or comment vigorously below. Either way, I expect that you will conduct yourself and present your thoughts responses like a respectable adult. Don’t be an asshole.
I was looking for something on Facebook when I stumbled upon a photo taken of a panel held at USC for a Women’s Hack the Gender Gap Event. As a woman, I completely appreciate panels and events like these that not only highlight the shortage of women in certain industries and higher levels of organizational management but that also bring together the few who have made it to help those still peering through the uncomfortably familiar glass ceiling. But this photo also stirred something within me that compelled me to drop my hot glue gun and abandon my painfully intricate crafts project for today.
So there is no confusion, I’ll preface everything by saying that I am a woman of color who is overweight and skips the contouring for an extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning. Like I said, I appreciate events aimed at the advancement of women, but I can’t help but notice a disparity that bothers me to the bone.
Where are all the women of color? Why are they often not part of these panels?
Of course, this isn’t a reflection of all panels ever held everywhere ever, and I know there have been events and panels that do include women of color. Unfortunately, it seems that in order for a panel to include women of color, it must be labeled as such, and if it’s not, well, we tend to either not be included or are only lightly sprinkled into the mix. I didn’t just wake up this morning with a vendetta on women’s panels and events. I’ve always been (and more so recently) very aware that I am not a man, nor am I a tall, thin Caucasian woman (or even just thin). I am also particularly honest and outspoken, so a lot of times, I’ve struck out before I’ve even begun.
It started in July 2015 when I volunteered for Zach Levi’s Nerd HQ 2015, which ran in conjunction with San Diego Comic Con. The event was free to attend but boasted intimate celebrity panels for $22 a ticket with all proceeds benefiting Operation Smile. I was able to attend a few panels, but it was the Badass Women Panel that left me looking around thinking, “Uh, am I the only one hearing this?” as I peered over all the googly eyed attendees who filled the room.
The panel included Yvonne Strahovski, Felicia Day, Krysta Rodriguez, Mercedes Mason and Bree Turner, and they made some great points in relation to women’s struggles in the entertainment industry, particularly within film and television. When they were asked which women they look up to in the industry who are pioneering the way for others, they named the likes of Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. While I agreed with their selections, I waited in vain with hopes of hearing the name of a woman of color. What about Maya Rudolph or, one of my super faves right now, Mindy Kaling? Despite Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington completely killing it on prime time, they were not even mentioned. It was interesting hearing the great things each panelist said otherwise, but I was somewhat appalled that they didn’t mention anything in relation to the low presence of colored women in the industry.
I admit that the past few years, I notice almost immediately when colored folks are missing from the picture and particularly when colored women are not represented. For me this is somewhat of a flaw because I do not view an over-sensitivity to race as a strength. At the same time, a lack of awareness is just as detrimental. I liked all the panelists for Badass Women, but I think they lacked the awareness (or at least the acknowledgment) that their colored peers are an even less represented minority within a minority. Again, I am a very aware brown woman, so this is immediately apparent to me. But it may not be as evident for those from a different cultural background, or even to other colored women (ahem, Stacy Dash #icant).
I guess this is my plea for all women to remember to always look out for one another, despite race and to be aware when one of us is underrepresented or completely missing from the present environment. I don’t know the exact statistics of women or women of color throughout the various industries, and I’m sure that in some instances, low numbers are indicative of a lack of overall presence of women in that industry period. This is understandable, but we as a society have to improve the status of women across all industries because it’s hard to aspire to a future and pave a road to a destination where there is no reflection of yourself.
To learn more about statistics for women in entertainment, SDSU has a pretty cool program, and see here for great free stock photos of women of color in the tech industry.