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Representation Matters: Four Powerful Statements from "Women in Focus: Big Tech and the Future of Hollywood"

The event featured women from politics and media discussing everything from the impact of big tech to the importance of representation in movies and TV

At Common Sense, we've always believed that diverse representation matters and that it's important for all kids and families to see themselves reflected in the media they consume. So I was excited to attend this event to hear what the industry was thinking about these issues. Earlier this month, Chapman University's Dodge College, in partnership with Glamour magazine, brought together an impressive, diverse virtual panel of accomplished women to discuss everything from the impact of big tech to the importance of representation in the movies and TV shows we see. Led by moderator Janice Min (Time contributing editor), panelists political activist Stacey Abrams, Glamour Editor-in-Chief Samantha Barry, TV host/comedian Samantha Bee, actor/producer/director Eva Longoria, head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke, and Walt Disney Television's Chairman of Entertainment Dana Walden spent an hour in energetic conversation.

Here are four things the panelists said that really resonated with me and reflect our mission and goals at Common Sense.

1. "The role of media, our role, is to change culture. Because you're not going to change policy until you change culture. And that's the power we have. ... We all can't be Stacey Abrams, but we can support Stacey Abrams." —Eva Longoria

Content creators and gatekeepers need to make it their goal and responsibility to reflect and represent the diverse population of the United States if we want to see the country's culture truly change. That includes wide-ranging representation of all types of people. So much of what we assume about people is based on how we see them portrayed on TV and in the movies, so those portrayals need to be authentic and nuanced. We know from our members that parents are hungry for quality content that doesn't trade in stereotypes or problematic portrayals. There's a reason audiences flock to movies like Black Panther and the Fast and the Furious series—they reflect the true diversity of the world we live in.

2. "My leadership group now is ... a diverse group of executives, and the conversations we have just as a result of that are effortlessly better for our consumers." —Dana Walden

It's so encouraging to hear an executive at a major production company celebrate the diversity of her team and acknowledge that it's not just something that should be done to look good but because it has a positive impact on their business. Unless the voices and lived experiences represented at every stage of the media creation process are diverse, opportunities to tell meaningful, original stories are lost. Not only is it good for audiences, but it's good for the bottom line: Traditionally underrepresented communities are hungry for content and eager to watch movies and shows that reflect their lives.

3. "Big tech has the ability to democratize [media] access and creation and distribution, but it's not going to do it of its own volition. No one ever does this because they want to—they usually do it because they're forced to do it. As with most opportunities, there's going to have to be intentionality, management, and accountability to make it so." —Stacey Abrams

In other words, we have to hold tech companies accountable. That's a big part of what motivates Common Sense's advocacy team, and it's something we work toward every day in our policy and industry efforts.



4. "[Full Frontal with Samantha Bee] built a voting app, and in the process of building it, we acquired so much personal data. ... And people trusted us with that data, and of course we handled that data completely responsibly. ... And in the wrong hands, even something as simple as our little game that we made, we could have sold that data. ... And we lived in this moment of, 'I'm glad we're not evil.' ... What these [big tech] companies prioritize is not what we on this panel would prioritize." —Samantha Bee

We all make the choice to share our personal data with tech companies every day, with very little sense of how they're going to use it or what we might be giving away that we'd rather keep private. And when shareholders and profits are involved, ethics often take a back seat. It's imperative for everyone to be a smart digital citizen—and to teach those skills to our kids from the earliest ages.

Betsy Bozdech

Betsy's experiences working in online parenting and entertainment content were the perfect preparation for her role as Common Sense's editorial director. After earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in 1997, she began her editorial career at BabyCenter.com and then served as an editor at Reel.com, Emode.com, and AOL's Digital City before working as the site content manager at Netflix for three years -- and then joining Common Sense Media in 2006. She's a lifelong movie and TV fan (favorites include The Princess Bride, 30 Rock, Some Like It Hot, Saturday Night Live, and Star Wars) and is delighted to have a job that makes keeping up on celebrity and pop culture news a necessity -- which, in turn, helps give her (a little) cred with her two kids.

In her role at Common Sense, Betsy has had the privilege of moderating a Comic-Con panel, serving as a juror for the San Francisco Film Festival, touring the set of Imagination Movers, interviewing filmmakers like The Good Dinosaur's Peter Sohn, and much more. She is also a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

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