Dietland Is Your New TV Addiction

“[Dietland] is Fight Club meets Margaret Atwood” (Bustle)

There's a smart, funny and rather surreal new show launching on AMC on June 4th called Dietland. Based on the book by Sarai Walker and produced by Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the show is led by an excellent cast that includes Joy Nash and Julianna Margulies. Dietland explores all the hot button issues women confront on a daily basis, fat shaming, sexual harassment, workplace inequality and thwarted career ambitions. I was glad to be included in a gathering of cast members, thought leaders and activists this morning, to discuss how women could better channel their anger and frustration at gender inequality issues, into action.

 Dietland poster

Dietland poster

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Dietland starTamara Tunie, Dee Poku

The Stories We Tell Our Children

Last night I moderated an excellent panel with Jamia Wilson, executive director and publisher of the Feminist Press, and artist, writer, educator Elise Peterson, about race and representation in storytelling. Over 80% of characters in children’s books are white, and in 2016, black, latinx and Native American authors combined wrote just 6% of all new children’s books. So how do we ensure all our kids are exposed to diverse literature that broadens their worldview?

Well, there are systemic changes that need to happen within the publishing industry. But in the meantime, there are also active steps we can all take in our daily lives, such as supporting existing writers of color, donating diverse books to our schools and youth organizations, becoming writers ourselves and even creating simple homemade storybooks for our kids. Where there’s a lack, sometimes the best solution is to start by plugging the gap ourselves rather than waiting for the system to change. 

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There Are No Shortcuts To Success

Do you remember how you got started in your career? I’ve never taken the easy path in life and have worked so hard for everything I have but there’s always that little demon in the corner of your brain telling you you haven’t done enough.

Giving a speech about first jobs as part of the TueNight series at The Wing, reminded me that I’ve actually come pretty far and should own it and be proud. I also loved hearing all the funny, poignant, honest and inspiring stories from public advocate Letitia James, Stacy London, Higher Heights’ Kimberly Peeler Allen, Mallory Kasdan and Robin Gelfenbien. It reminded me that social media is just smokescreen. There really are no short cuts to success. It takes hard work, persistence and perseverance. 

 

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TueNight at The Wing

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With fellow speaker Stacy London

Stepping Outside The Bubble At The TED Conference

I'm feeling unstoppable today, having spent the week hearing about the heights of human achievement and the depths of human loss at my first TED conference in Vancouver. Before going, I asked TED veterans advice on how best to navigate the 2500 person event. Don't overthink it, they said. Be open. Talk to anyone and everyone.  And they were right. There were brilliant biochemists in the coffee line and eminent economists at coat check, Ryan Coogler casually sitting on the steps and Steven Spielberg hidden in plain site. Impressive thinkers and doers at every turn.

On stage, speakers such as Jaron Lanier (the use of our data), Tracee Ellis Ross (sexual harassment), Kate Raworth (rethinking our economy), Yasmin Green & Dylan Marron (combatting online hate), Frances Frei (company culture), Morgan Dixon/Vanessa Garrison (black women driving movements), Robin Steinberg (mass incarceration) and Chetna Sinha (authentic social entrepreneurship) amazed, informed and inspired.

And I made some good friends. Friends I want to change the world with. This was my first time at Ted but hopefully not my last. Thank you for the unforgettable experience.

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Why All Countries Should Follow The UK's Lead on Equal Pay

Last week, various film and television companies shared their pay figures, and the results were far from stellar. The most upsetting results came from Disney, who revealed a 22% pay gap between its male and female employees and a 40% gap in favor of men for bonuses. Yesterday, it was the turn of the music industry, which saw Warner Music UK as the stand out, with an average gender pay gap of 49%, and 82% for bonuses!

The reason all these shocking statistics are coming to light? Because of the UK government's mandate that all companies with over 250 employees disclose their pay data by April 4. This process began to unravel back in July 2017 when the BBC was asked to reveal the salaries of anyone earning over £150k. The results were damning, leading to protests by female employees and the resignation of one editor. Now that the requirement has been widened to include all large companies, we're seeing the true extent of the problem we already knew existed.

Companies with pay gaps are also being encouraged to outline a plan for how they might rectify the problem. But now these statistics are available to all, I hope it not only forces companies to continue to self-examine but that it provides employees the leverage with which to demand change.

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Misty Copeland Inspires Again

Naturally, human beings are sensitive to criticism. Our initial reaction when someone is less than complimentary is to get defensive and/or hide away, none of which helps us grow or deal with the issue.

This week, my favorite dancer and all round inspirational human being, Misty Copeland was a study in class, grace and self reflection as she dealt with an online troll who criticized a recent performance of Swan Lake. Rather than clap back, she acknowledged the criticism, posted about it publicly and used it as opportunity to not only reflect on her mission and strengths but also areas of potential growth. I've shared part of statement below.

"I’m happy this has been shared because I will forever be a work in progress and will never stop learning. I learn from seeing myself on film and rarely get to. So thank you. I will always reiterate that I am by no means the best in ballet. I understand my position and what I represent. I know that I’m in a very unique position and have been given a rare platform. All I’ve ever wanted is to bring ballet to more people and to help to diversify it."

"A ballerina's career is not, nor should be defined by how many fouettés she executes. I’m happy to have this dialogue because it’s something I believe in whole heartedly. The history of ballet and it’s origin of pure freedom and expression is what we need to hold onto. Not to come into the theatre as a critic armed with judgement."

So much to be inspired by.

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Women In Entertainment - 10 Things You Can Do To Drive Change

Last week, leading executives and creatives from across the music, television and film industries came together for a high level dinner to share solutions for how we truly move the needle for women in entertainment in 2018. Led by guest speakers Keri Putnam CEO of the Sundance Institute, director Alma Har’el and manager/activist Ty Stiklorius, we left the room armed with actionable ideas for how we continue to drive forward momentum. After a year of marching, speaking out and making our voices heard, we are more than ready to make good on that promise of action. Everyone can be a part of the solution. Here are ten things you can do to make a difference.

1. Take the pledge. Make a personal commitment to create a diverse workforce within your department and company, or on your productions. And set measurable goals.

2. Build data, source data and utilize data to help make the case for equal hiring practices and diverse content creation. We want to see our own stories.

3. Be mindful and intentional about expanding your professional network. How are you ensuring that you're connecting to and meeting with people across race, gender and socio-economic class?

4. Utilize existing models that drive inclusivity such as Dr Stacy Smith’s inclusion riders and Alma Har'el’s Free the Bid.

5. Call out bias and bad behavior when you see it. We have to bring these issues out into the open and hold companies to account.

6. Mentor and sponsor women. Don’t just give advice and guidance, pick up the phone, make introductions, go to bat for people.

7. Use the notion of ‘shining’ to amplify other women’s ideas.

8. We need more women financially investing in other women. How do we make the case to a wider network of high net worth women that investing in diverse content makes good business sense?

9. Use your privilege. If you’re in a position of power or influence, use it to support those with less.

10. If you can't make the system work for you, build your own systems. Lets use entrepreneurship as a tool by which to lead by example. 

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Audrey Buchanan, Ty Stiklorius, Dee Poku, Laura Rister, Tory Tunnell

 Tasya van Ree, Antoinette Clarke, Dee Poku, Tricia Clarke Stone

Tasya van Ree, Antoinette Clarke, Dee Poku, Tricia Clarke Stone

Less Empowerment, More Power For Women

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make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights

The week of March 8th is always my busiest of the year. Why? Because it's the week of International Women's Day. The one period when all the world's attention is focused on women, our rights, our achievements and our economic development. The emphasis during this time is usually on how we adjust existing systems to ensure women are given equal opportunities. So I prepared myself for the obligatory round of panels and receptions filled with the same rhetoric, knowing that progress would proceed at its usual glacial pace. 

But this year felt different. Women are done with being 'empowered'. We want real power. We're already strong and confident.  We already have a voice and we plan to use it. And there's no better way of sticking two fingers up at the patriarchy than by starting our own businesses and driving our own movements. Gratifyingly, many of the conversations this year were about women breaking the rules and building their own systems, especially via entrepreneurship. Women who build businesses do a huge amount to change the world for us all, and have an incredible amount to teach the world about how both companies and economies should be run. 

 At Theory's Be Heard event. L to R. Dee Poku, Amanda Hesser, Susan Lyne, Shan-Lyn Ma

At Theory's Be Heard event. L to R. Dee Poku, Amanda Hesser, Susan Lyne, Shan-Lyn Ma

 At Berlin Cameron's Girl Brands Do It Better. L to R. Dee Poku, Meg He, Polly Rodriguez, Kristy Wallace, Jennifer DaSilva, Lindsay Stein

At Berlin Cameron's Girl Brands Do It Better. L to R. Dee Poku, Meg He, Polly Rodriguez, Kristy Wallace, Jennifer DaSilva, Lindsay Stein

Black Women Are The Future Of Tech

Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America. We are severely underfunded, underestimated and under resourced yet we still generate $52.6 billion in revenue. That’s why it was so good to be at the Black Women Talk Tech conference, which was filled with smart, creative ambitious tech entrepreneurs, eager to connect with fellow founders and support and uplift one another.

Speakers included Jean Brownhill from Sweeten, Tonya Lewis Lee and Rich Dennis founder of Sundial Brands, who recently acquired Essence Magazine.  Dennis' advice to the audience: "Surround yourself with people who support what you're doing. There are more people for you than against you. Find your people."

I found my people.

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Back row: Kobi Wu Passmore, Tanya von Court, Asmau Ahmed, Danielle Kayembe, Viola Lewellyn

Front row: Candice Matthews, Dee Poku, Bea Arthur