Sundance 2016 – Highlights from an #Awesome Fest

Sundance 2016 – Highlights from an #Awesome Fest
Author: Jacki Zehner (Member, Women Moving Millions)jacki photo
Originally posted on February 5, 2016 on LinkedIn

The 2016 Sundance Film Festival is a remarkable event, not only for the incredible films, but for so many other reasons!  Because I live in Park City, and serve on the board of The Sundance Institute, I get to experience it to the fullest, and every year my friends and family ask me what were the highlights? It is my pleasure to share my TOP 10 for 2016.

Read more from Jacki here.

Leveling the Playing Field for Women and Girls

Author: Jana Shea (Member, Women Moving Millions)

I awoke to the idea that I was not an equal citizen in the world when I was told there was no Little League baseball for girls. This rude awakening was followed by the sad experience of watching my poor younger brother humiliate himself at bat when he hit eligibility age. He cried all the way home and asked to quit week after week. I was furious about the injustice of him having to stick it out when I was the one dying to play. Luckily others later took up that fight for equal sports eligibility for the next generation of young girls that resulted in Title IX.

I am sure my experiences as a young woman trying to plan a career also had a large impact on me. I constantly fretted about the limited roles I was offered in life as homemaker, nurse, secretary, phone operator, airline stewardess, retail worker, or teacher. Instead I studied Biology at the University of Buffalo but had no money to continue that track to graduate school. I had liked being a Girl Scout and set my life goal to be financially independent and able to spend time working on service projects to make the world a better place.

I had no idea how to achieve that but that is exactly where my life’s journey has led me. I was encouraged by an early woman mentor to apply to the phone company not as an operator but for a job in marketing. My career leapfrogged from there to regulatory, product management, and strategic planning in a history changing industry that led to the internet, computers, and mobile phones. I am grateful they paid for my MBA from University of New Haven along the way. I had fought for part-time and flextime options which I used for a year before I left to stay home and raise my children full time. At the time I was disillusioned that I couldn’t just “do it all”. As I reflect now it was a wonderful time in my life that I will always treasure and that to be a successful woman in the world you do not have to “do it all” at the same time.

For those 20 years, I kept my fascination with life science and technology. I was a docent at Yale’s Peabody Natural History Museum and an avid investor in technology companies. I used my experience to mentor other young start-ups through my Mentor Management Partnership. In 2011 I co-founded a theatre production company called Seaview Productions and have invested and coproduced 13 plays and musicals over the last 4 years on the West End, Broadway, and Off-Broadway.

My life long experiences of being treated as a second class citizen in so many arenas has translated into a lifelong desire to level the playing field for women and girls. I have served as a volunteer and member of the Advisory Board of the Community Fund for Women & Girls in Greater New Haven for 15 years. When I heard about the Women Moving Millions movement from Helen LaKelly Hunt & Swanee Hunt at a NY Women’s Foundation breakfast in 2007 there was no question in my mind that someday I was going to make a $1M pledge even if it had to wait until I was dead!!

Last year the time was right. I met so many fantastic women during the September Summit and absolutely knew it was the right decision. I am most excited by the idea of interest circles and joined the Film Circle. I met Leslee Udwin at the Summit and agreed to help produce her film “India’s Daughter”. I have received help from another Film Circle member to support a documentary I am executive producing called “She Started It”. The film is intended to encourage young girls to study STEM subjects and become part of the next wave of women owned start-ups. I enjoy seeing some of my new friends in NYC and others when I travel. I look forward to helping out on many of the exciting projects they are involved with. This organization has now set my sights beyond my community on how to help our sisters all over the world that suffer greatly and live under intolerable conditions. They need to have a chance at an education and jobs to provide food and shelter for their families. I pray every day that they receive some of the peace and serenity I am humbled to be able to enjoy one day at a time in my blessed life.

Jana’s gift to the Community Fund for Women and Girls at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven qualified her for membership at Women Moving Millions. To learn more about the Community Fund and its inspiring work, please click here.

I Once Used Movies to Escape My To-Do List. Now Films Are Part of My Work

I Once Used Movies to Escape My To-Do List. Now Films Are Part of My Work.
Author: Jacki Zehner (Member, Women Moving Millions)jacki photo
Originally posted on January 2, 2016 on LinkedIn

Ask any one of my friends or family members what my favorite thing to do is, and they’ll tell you without hesitation, “Go to the movies.” A night in a darkened theater with a big bag of popcorn is a good night out as far as I’m concerned, and as life seems to get ever busier with each passing year, the movie theater is the one place where I can truly relax and let go of my to-do list that is constantly on my mind. Dramas, comedies, action, romance, it doesn’t matter the genre of film. I just love going to the movies.

This is a love affair that began at a very young age. I was born in 1964, which means that today’s world of digital access to films and online streaming only existed in the realm of science fiction. To see a movie you had to go to the theater, and go I did. Often and as much as I could. This tradition continues to this day, to the point where I’ve often found myself in the odd position of having to convince my children to come to the movies with me instead of the other way around. Every time those lights dim, I sit back, relax, and escape into the world of storytelling.

Read more from Jacki here.

Under the Same Sky

Under the Same Skyfrancine blog
Author: Francine LeFrak (Member, Women Moving Millions)
Originally posted on January 26, 2016 on Huffington Post

On a recent weeknight at the Most Excellent Halfway House in Jersey City, 15 women came together to meticulously bead bracelets. While beading, Cassie discussed her new job at Supercuts where she is exploring money-saving tactics, Tanya showed pictures of her children that she is trying to regain custody of, and Dominique shared her love for managing the beading operation and her newfound pursuit of a career in business management. To Nichole, this time of day is particularly special — she finds the beading meditative. She said the quietness and tactile qualities of beading allow her to block out the pull of the streets. In fact, for all of the women, crafting jewelry is a great contrast to the rest of their lives and to the loud aggression of Martin Luther King Blvd just outside their front door.

All 15 of these women have recently been released from Hudson County Jail. To them, the ordinary act of beading is actually quite extraordinary. Beading is a chance for them to reinvent themselves, to go from being invisible to visible, and to be integrated into society once again.

Read more from Francine here.