Women’s Conference Participants Stress Focusing on People, Passion, Representation

Katie Jones

“Whenever you put winning medals, which equal money, over human lives ... when you care more about winning than people that are in your charge, you open your organization up to a corrosiveness that spreads like a cancer,” said UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, addressing the culture that allowed Larry Nassar to thrive.

UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field and singer and actress Jenifer Lewis were joined by hundreds of female business owners, executives and entrepreneurs at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Sunday for Deal With It: A Women’s Conference presented by the Motion Picture & Television Fund in partnership with UCLA Health.

The day consisted of several breakout sessions covering topics ranging from women’s sexual health to investing and preparing for retirement. Kondos Field and Lewis each gave keynote addresses, and Courtenay Valenti received the Edie Award from sports super-agent Casey Wasserman, for her service to the MPTF, which supports a retirement community for entertainment industry figures.

Kondos Field was the day’s first speaker, and she told the audience how a culture obsessed with winning over everything allowed team doctor Larry Nassar to thrive as a pedophile for years in the U.S. women’s gymnastics program: “Whenever you put winning medals, which equal money, over human lives ... when you care more about winning than people that are in your charge, you open your organization up to a corrosiveness that spreads like a cancer. ... The system stripped their voices to the point where they couldn’t even hear themselves."

In addition to the breakout panels, guests were invited to explore activations from Skylight Books, Golden Door Farms, the Ugly Co. and Caulipower Pizza, which makes a frozen pizza with a gluten-free cauliflower crust.

One of the day's first sessions, "Who’s Getting Hired in Today’s Job Market," was moderated by The Hollywood Reporter senior reporter Rebecca Sun.

Panel participant Angela Gardner, a partner at Heidrick and Struggles, an executive placement firm, said that women can excel when they feel true passion for the work they’re doing as opposed to taking a job from a sense of obligation: “Keep in touch with your passion and follow that because you’re going to be better at that than you are at anything else and that will be your purpose and a driver and a credibility and an authenticity that you won’t otherwise have.”

Following the morning sessions, guests returned to the ballroom for lunch, where they enjoyed a meal of rosemary lemon chicken with a salad of mixed field greens, haricot verts and cherry tomatoes.

Guests also heard from the day's second keynote speaker, Lewis, who gave a lively presentation about the importance of political activism in her own life and performed a number of politically themed songs dealing with issues such as the importance of voting and the Flint water crisis.

Lorrie Bartlett, an ICM board member and the agencies department head for Motion Picture Talent, participated in the "Bad Ass Women Who Inspire Us" panel. She addressed how ICM Partners had embraced the 50/50 by 2020 initiative, which is the idea that 50 percent of leadership positions in entertainment companies should be held by women by the year 2020.

“Our agency was the first agency to publicly say, we stand by that and we want to achieve it and I can tell you that our company is 50 percent men and 50 percent women, which is pretty awesome. Twenty five percent of the board is female. Forty-five percent of all the agents at the company are women, so we have more work to do," said Bartlett. "It’s just the conscious decision to really look beyond yourself, and I think for many, many years, men have just chosen people who look like them, in many fields, but certainly in the agency world.”

Following closing remarks, hundreds of newly empowered women emerged from the hotel’s ballroom, feeling recharged, reinvigorated and better prepared to become Hollywood’s leaders of today and tomorrow.