Roslyn Dawson, president and CEO of the DWF, kicked off the program by introducing luncheon chair Katherine LaLonde, west division marketing executive of U.S. Trust, who joined Dawson at the podium. Dawson characterized LaLonde as someone "you don't say no to."
LaLonde expressed that just by attending the luncheon, everyone in the room "helps transform the lives of thousands of women and girls." Then Dawson recognized the recipients of the Power of Purse Awards, Joy Mankoff (philanthropist awardee) and Philip Cubeta (advisor awardee).
After a lovely meal, Keith Banks, president of presenting sponsor U.S. Trust, took the stage and joked, "I'm Geena Davis' warm-up band." Banks said he was proud of his company's efforts to empower women — especially the Global Ambassadors Program, designed to create female leaders who help develop communities and economic growth.
"If you ever see me playing Sean Connery's kidnapped wife, you know I'm broke," Geena Davis said.
Then Banks introduced beloved actress and keynote speaker Davis, who shared how her work in film inspired her to become an advocate for girls to reach their full potential.
Davis said she calls herself an "actor" because, according to the dictionary, an actor is a person who acts — so why should there be a gender difference? "I consider myself a former waiter who became an actor," she said.
As Davis provoked thought, she told the audience about her self-consciousness growing up because of her height. She never thought of herself as very coordinated, so she didn't attempt to play sports until her role in A League of Their Own, which led her to join the Women's Sports Foundation. She also picked up archery and later qualified for the sport in the Olympics.
But Davis said her role in Thelma and Louise had the greatest impact on her life, because the female characters were very much in charge of their own fate. She expressed gratitude that she can afford to choose her roles carefully. "If you ever see me playing Sean Connery's kidnapped wife, you know I'm broke," she said.
Everyone in the audience — including Debbie Raynor, Lynn McBee, Joanna Clark, Aimee Deputy Cook, Michelle Chism, Abby Williams, Heather Hunt, Ashlee Kleinert, Rick Pomeroy, Diana Dutton and Betty Regard — were greatly impressed by Davis' efforts to start a research center, which is the largest institute focusing on gender in the media.
We were all shocked by what Davis' research revealed — that girls and women are woefully misrepresented and underrepresented in TV and film. And those numbers haven't changed all that much since 1946.
There's no doubt that these statistics need to change. We can only hope that the day will come when Davis can tell her daughter, "Once upon a time, women held a lesser position in the world than men," and her daughter will respond, "Mom, yeah right."
Thanks to Davis and her support of the Dallas Women's Foundation, proceeds from the empowering lunch topped $920,000.