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Women Inspiring Leaders: Turning the lens on women

March 05, 2019
Written by

Nell Crichton

More than 60 women braved a late February snowstorm for a lively panel discussion with some of the country’s most inspiring female leaders in the arts as part of NATIONAL Public Relations’ Women Inspiring Leaders breakfast series.

The discussion, entitled 2019 Awards Season: Turning the Lens on Women, focused on women storytellers in Canada’s film and television industry and came hot off the heels of the 91st Oscars and leading up to the 7th annual Canadian Screen Awards.

Jelena Adzic, National Arts and Entertainment journalist at CBC, guided the conversation with industry heavyweights Beth Janson, CEO, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, Sally Catto, General Manager of Programming, CBC, and Tassie Cameron, an award-winning screenwriter and co-founder of Cameron Pictures.

The future is bright

Setting the stage, Ms. Adzic recounted a story of a recent interaction with her son. While gathered around their kitchen table, flipping through a magazine with a female Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Adzic casually commented to her son how great it was that a woman was in that position.

Her son looked at her quizzically, wondering why that was such a big deal—insinuating that women are already viewed as equal. This made Ms. Adzic think, how great it will be when women don’t have to fight for equality and it becomes the norm to have women at the top.

This story led to a consensus from the panel—all of the participants are optimistic about the future of women writers and producers in Canada.

“There is a wave of content today that is coming from a different perspective,” said Ms. Janson. “Women are breaking down walls and telling stories in film and television that are strong and complicated.”

Proof of this is the fact that women dominate in over 50 percent of nominated categories in the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards, noted Ms. Janson.

Changing perceptions

As the discussion continued, it was evident that these women have made, and are continuing to make, a huge contribution in moving the needle on how women are perceived and supported in the entertainment industry.

Said Ms. Catto: “I don’t know if a man would’ve heard a pitch for Workin’ Moms and said YES.” Notably, CBC content has become more driven by female creators over the past few years.

Ms. Cameron recounted her approach on how she pitched a popular TV series to a man, noting that she was unapologetically herself in the pitch and would not take no for an answer. She was tenacious and relentless in her pitch, and in the end, he just couldn’t say no.

The conversation also touched on Toronto’s hottest topic: Netflix coming to the city. The panel participants agreed that making a commitment to Canadian content and production is a good thing.

However, they felt that Netflix should also have to contribute to the Canadian Media Fund, an organization that fosters, promotes, develops and finances the production of Canadian content. As the discussion wound down, the three panelists took a moment to reflect on the personal side of their successful careers:

  • “Early on, I learned you should demand work-life balance from your work place,” said Ms. Cameron.
  • “I wish I had spent less time listening to outside noises and more time looking and listening to myself,” said Ms. Catto.
  • “I wish I had spent less time worrying about what other people thought. I have learnt you can never change what people think. Just do your work with integrity and hold your head up,” Ms. Janson noted.

By the end, all four panelists agreed that women need to change their mindset from “I could” to “I can.”

These are wise words coming from trailblazers in Canadian film and television.

As a storyteller myself, this meeting of the minds inspired me to lean in, grab the bull by its horns and continue to be me—unapologetically.

About the Women Inspiring Leaders series

Since 2017, emerging and established female leaders have joined NATIONAL’s Toronto office to hear from dynamic women who have made great contributions in their respective fields in an effort to create connections and inspire action.

——— Nell Crichton is a former Manager at NATIONAL Public Relations


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