How Women Rising Founder Sara Hirsh Bordo Is Creating Spaces FOR Women BY Women in Entertainment
"We still have a ways to go."
Meet Sara Hirsh Bordo, Founder of Women Rising
It's no secret that the entertainment industry is dominated by men, both on and offscreen.
According to the "Boxed In" report by San Diego State University, women only accounted for 40 percent of all speaking roles on television in 2017-18, dropping 2 percent from 2016-18. Meanwhile, SDSU's "Celluloid Ceiling" study reported that in the top 250 films of 2018, women accounted for 20 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, and cinematographers. While this is an increase of 2 percent from 2017, it's clear that there is still plenty of work to be done.
One woman who hopes to spark some change for women in all aspects of the entertainment landscape is Sara Hirsh Bordo, who is no stranger to the industry.
Previously, the Executive Director of Interactive Marketing at Paramount Pictures and VP of Digital Marketing at MGM Studios, Bordo is now the CEO and founder of Women Rising, a production company that aims to use storytelling to empower females. The company has given rise to A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, Protect Her, and soon, We Go Higher.
With more and more women taking the reigns of their own narrative in television and film, we spoke to Bordo about how she sees Women Rising making an impact on the industry, the importance of diversity in female-led businesses, upcoming projects, and so much more. Keep scrolling to read what she had to share!
Women.com: Please tell us a bit about Women Rising and its purpose.
Sara Hirsh Bordo: Women Rising is committed to a new kind of storytelling for women and girls. We create opportunities in real life and via film for women and girls to see themselves just a little more clearer and to activate their voice.
WDC: What inspired you to create Women Rising?
SHB: Sometimes it’s when things break, that we see things clearer. For me, it was that I wanted to be a part of an effort to allow women to champion each other rather than allow ourselves to feel threatened by each other. For me and my experience and my way of communicating, the best way I could lead support for this conversation was through storytelling and inspiration.
WDC: How have you seen the entertainment industry change for women in recent years?
SHB: In front of the camera, more women and girls are seeing themselves. But we still have a ways to go. For women behind the camera, this is a profound opportunity to create a tidal shift. There is a great deal of intention and eye-opening clarity on what isn't as progressive as it could be. Not as many commitments and solutions. We look forward to offering one solution to help centralize this effort and will be doing so in the year ahead.
WDC: How do you see Women Rising making an impact?
SHB: We are a team of former Hollywood studio executives, agents, creatives, digital editors, and we see where we can participate in the road ahead. In the short term, it’s putting our walk where our talk has been from the beginning. For every film or event we’ve worked on, we have had a minimum of 50 percent females on the production and insisted pay parity for every role male and female. We also have made a donation to a related charity for every project we’ve worked on to date.
WDC: Why do you think it's important to have female-led and focused businesses?
SHB: I think it’s important to have diverse and inclusive businesses. I’m a female and I have a business and I want us to be successful. But I also am maintaining a company that is not all female. I believe that it is the diversity and open innovation at the table that makes the best business. As it relates to female-focused businesses, I am passionate about holding the line for showing what young women can be, for creating windows for them to see what is possible.
WDC: What advice do you have for women in (or entering) the entertainment industry?
SHB: My advice is to prioritize the learning and the listening. This industry is so incredible and it can also be as challenging as it is magical. I have worked in strategy, marketing, media, product development, production, and creative. Having an understanding of as many sides of the entertainment prism is vital. It is also vital to build a tribe of women and men, organizations you can belong to, who you can riff with when circumstances confront you.
WDC: Women Rising recently collaborated with Paramount Pictures for a female-focused Super Bowl event. Tell us a bit about that.
SHB: We are very honored to be helping the founders of Celebrating Women in Football amplify their presence. What started as three senior leaders in the football industry wanting to celebrate each other Super Bowl weekend, has now grown into over 300 women rallying around each other as they forge ahead in a very male-dominated industry. We are excited to come to the table to create content and mentor moments around the event as well as build the bridge between women in sports with Hollywood as we brought Paramount Pictures’ What Women Want in as a partner.
WDC: Let's talk about 'We Go Higher' and what drew you to that story.
SHB: We Go Higher was an opportunity that presented itself to follow a young woman named Delaney Colaio as she was finding her voice: as a child of 9/11, as a member of a community she didn’t know, as a young woman trying to understand what her role was in a world that is so social-impact focused. Delaney represents a younger generation who has had to learn her identity on the other side of loss, find her role in a sea of other teens looking to live for something MORE. What started as a 9/11-centric film has evolved into a community finding their way together. I am so proud that our film has brought together survivors and surviving loved ones from 9/11, Sandy Hook, Manchester, Las Vegas, Pulse, and Parkland.
WDC: What do you want the audience to walk out thinking when they see 'We Go Higher'?
SHB: I hope that the project catalyzes comfortable conversation around loss, which is truly a taboo subject in our culture. I hope that it offers a glimpse of the importance of belonging to something larger than yourself and a look at so many brave young women and men who are finding their individual paths to resilience.
WDC: Do you have any other projects coming up?
SHB: In between working with key events that we believe can achieve impact for women and girls, and our films, we love working with brand partners to help them identify how to speak authentically in a time of female empowerment. I have said for a long time that empowerment does not look the same for every woman. I love when we get the chance to help leading brands and teams find their own voice in this incredible time.
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