Elle Women in Hollywood Awards: Amy Schumer, Salma Hayek Urge Colleagues to Fight to Overcome Obstacles

ELLE Women in Hollywood - H 2015
Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for ELLE

“It takes a generation of women that will not accept a reality that is f—ed up and unfair to get angry and take adversity and transform it into power, to make a change," said Hayek.

The 22nd annual Elle Women in Hollywood Awards filled the ballroom of the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills with an inspiring array of Hollywood's leading actresses and directors: Meryl Streep, Amy Schumer, Ava DuVernay, Salma HayekCarey Mulligan, Gena Rowlands, Alicia Vikander, Kate Winslet and Dakota Johnson.

And as these women took the stage, they talked about the importance of overcoming the challenges facing women in a male-dominated industry, sharing their own stories of perseverance and urging others to fight.

Streep, introducing her Suffragette co-star Mulligan, joked about the need for a female-focused event.

“If they had this great big meeting once a year and they called it ‘Men in Hollywood’ and they had 17 percent women there, we would be pissed,” said the three-time Oscar winner. "Oh, wait, they have those meetings. Every day. In every city. In every country in the world.”

Elle Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers said only 20 percent of Congress and 7 percent of senior movie studio executives are female, and women direct only 4 percent of studio films. DuVernay made a point of how she is only one of two women (herself and Angelina Jolie) out of 109 directors, who helmed a top 100-grossing film. Lorraine Toussaint, who said DuVernay is her hero and friend, spoke of how important putting women in positions of power is in order for the industry to progress:

“The more women we have in power — the more women we have making those kinds of creative decisions at the top — will determine how many more projects we get done. And not just women’s roles, but the quality of women’s roles,” said Toussaint.

Many of the women at the event — Calvin Klein and L’Oreal Paris were presenting sponsors, and David Yurman was a supporting sponsor — were connected to one another through admiration and friendship: Nearly every woman acknowledged Streep — who sat front and center— in their speech, while Zoe Saldana noted that the first time she met Hayek, Hayek introduced her to everyone she was sitting with — a simple gesture that made her feel “present” as a young female artist. Hayek followed with the story of how she, after eight years, succeeded in starring in and producing Frida, which was nominated for six Oscars.

“I was told, ‘There are no leading parts for Mexicans in this town and especially for Mexican women.’ And they were right,” said Hayek, who later added, “It takes a generation of women that will not accept a reality that is f—ed up and unfair to get angry and take adversity and transform it into power, to make a change.”

Winslet, in her speech, talked about her personal connection to the next generation of young women. She spoke of “her own personal woman of the year,” her 15-year-old daughter Mia, and earlier told The Hollywood Reporter what types of traits female role models need: “Someone who can be true to themselves, someone who is honest about who they are, someone who feels confident with themselves. I think that beauty really does come from within, and I think that confidence plays a huge part in that.”

Schumer’s acceptance speech showed the importance of this network of women empowering and paving the way for the next generation of women and, on cue, elicited a last laugh.

“I was waiting for this big backlash to tell me that I was disgusting and that I had no right to be here, and it never came. … Don’t waste your energy being angry and fighting against something that might not even show up to fight you. We just need to focus all our energy on raising each other up and living to our full potential. Because if we don’t do it, who will? We have the tools, we have the clits.”