MAKERS: Using Stories To Fight For Gender Equality in the Workplace

Jan 21 2014, 7:32am CST | by

MAKERS: Using Stories To Fight For Gender Equality in the Workplace

When documentary filmmaker, Dyllan McGee, asked Gloria Steinem 9 years ago if she could do a film on her life, little did she know that she was starting a journey that would change the agenda for women in the workplace. Gloria turned down her request citing that “You can’t tell the story of a women’s movement through the story of just one person”.  Dyllan, and her partner, Peter Kunhardt, followed Gloria’s advice, and the idea of MAKERS, Women Who Make America, was born; the largest collection of women’s stories ever assembled. is digital platform showcasing thousands of compelling stories of trailblazing women of today and tomorrow. It’s a living library of stories. This collection of powerful videos has now become a movement to initiate change.

At their first conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California this February 10th– 12th, MAKERS will share these stories with thought leaders and business executives to spark a commitment to fight for gender equality in the workplace.

Dyllan McGee spoke to me about her goals for the conference.

Dyllan McGee:

What we realized is that we created this extraordinary living library of stories. And people are consuming that content – both online and on-air. And we thought at the end of the day, we want to create a MAKERS Action Plan. How can we roll up our sleeves and to really set an agenda for the 21st century change for women in the workplace? And so, we decided to do a conference.

Stories inspire, so how can we combine our inspirational stories with an action plan and an agenda? We really have 2 goals, I would say. One is, to create this concrete agenda. We hope we will leave the conference with a written document that shares all the wisdom from the MAKERS who are joining us on stage. Our ambassadors in the audience will bring that agenda back into the workplace. We also want individuals to create their own action plans. What can I do?  What can I do in the workplace?  What can I do, as an individual, to help empower and honor today’s female leaders?

Bonnie Marcus:

How do you see men participating in this conference?


We have to bring men into this conversation. To me, that’s the next wave of the women’s movement is, bringing men on board and working together to help make this change. In researching and talking to various different leaders in the space for the conference, we stumbled upon a program that’s happening at Harvard Business School, called the “Manbassador Program.” We found out about it through a professor there, Robin Ely.  The students themselves created this Manbassador Program where men and women are all committed to gender equality. And it’s bringing men to the table. And we thought we should have MAKERS Manbassadors. And really, we want both the men and women who were coming to the conference to go back engaged in this gender equality conversation at their organizations.

MAKERS is such a good way, I think, to activate and start dialogue about this. You know, there’s one thing about standing up and saying, ‘We need more women on our boards – more women in senior management.’ But when you can look at a story and that can spark the dialogue – I think we’d hope that people will use our storytelling mechanism to make change in their organizations. And also, just create this network. We’re creating a MAKERS network by pulling all these companies together. And we have companies from Silicon Valley to Wall Street. When you get everybody in a room and they can share ideas, and they can share their own case studies and what they’ve done that has worked; that’s what we hope the men will take back to their organization.

Marcus:  How did you find your Manbassadors?


In some cases, they came to us. Bob Moritz, Chairman and Senior Partner of PWC, actually came to us through Sheryl Sandberg.  Sheryl had done an event with him – and I asked her, ‘In your Lean In tour, who has impressed you the most?’ And she said, ‘Oh, you have to talk to Bob. He’s extraordinary. And he has a very personal connection to the story, too – having experienced a divorce, and having to take on childcare — and how that changed his perspective.’

Marcus:  As one of your Manbassadors, Bob Moritz wills then open doors for other men to get involved?

McGee:  Absolutely. I mean, PWC is one of the best companies to work for. And I think, when we can get leaders like Bob out there talking about what he’s done, and again, how it has changed the organization. Not why it’s just the right thing to do, but how, it makes good business sense; that’s when I think ears perk up by both men and women. I think, a lot of times, women are used to being the only woman. And sometimes, they are focused on themselves. Wendy Clark, who’s from Coca Cola, who’s going to be one of our participants on the stage, says ‘You have to lift while you climb.’ And we all need to do that./>/>

Marcus: How do you keep the conversation going after the conference in February?

McGee: We’re creating these Master classes. And the idea is that, when we partner with a company, that it’s a year-long partnership. And we will, throughout the year, share content. We’re doing 6 new documentaries that are going to come out on PBS. We are going to let our companies do premiere screenings of those. We will share our Master class content throughout the year. And we’re going to slowly roll out the content from the conference. So we’re going to be in constant dialogue leading up to the Makers 2015 Conference. We don’t want to just inspire and then leave people hanging. We want to leave people with the tools to make change.


The MAKERS Conference will gather prominent leaders and innovators across industries for a 36-hour action plan to reset the agenda for women in the workplace in the 21st century. Participants include Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook), Gloria Steinem (activist, author), Eric Schmidt (Google), Gabby Giffords, Martha Stewart (founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia), Tim Armstrong (CEO, AOL), Christy Haubegger (Founder, Latina Magazine), Anne Fulenwider (EIC, Marie Claire), Chelsea Handler (TV host, author), Megan Smith (GoogleX), Val Demings (Orlando’s Chief of Police), Bob Moritz (CEO, PwC), and many more. The conference will be emceed by tectonic thinker Kara Swisher, Silicon Valley’s leading journalist and co-creator of Re/code (formerly The Wall Street Journal’s ‘All Things D’).

Source: Forbes Business


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