Donate Now: Click here to give online

September 2011 Edition

Don't miss America Ferrera on Oct. 3!
You'll be Inspired by the Future
America Ferrera headshot, by Jeff Vespa
26th Annual Luncheon tickets on sale now

Did you know that America Ferrera--our 26th Annual Luncheon speaker--was convinced to star in Ugly Betty by Salma Hayek when they met on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2002? How's that for women networking?

Come early to our October 3 luncheon so you can mix and mingle with Chicago's finest women leaders. Who knows who you'll meet!

Come support CFW and be inspired by America Ferrera: Get your tickets today! Tables of 10 are still available--click here for the best seats.

Tearing down the celluloid ceiling 
President K. Sujata reflects on Hollywood's wide gender disparities.

I frequently write about women and girls in the Chicago area--the barriers they face and their solutions to improve their lives and communities. Here at CFW we've been thinking about Hollywood for a change as we count down to October 3, Strip of filmwhen activist and actress America Ferrera speaks at our 26th Annual Luncheon.

Ferrera's career illustrates what Hollywood and Chicago have in common: when women are leaders, great things happen--but women don't get to lead nearly often enough.

America Ferrera is renowned for portraying bold characters in television and film, and unsurprisingly this frequently involves women behind the scenes. For example, Salma Hayek was an executive producer of Ugly Betty, and Ferrera's breakthrough came in Real Woman Have Curves, directed and co-written by women.

Simply put, Hollywood has a "celluloid ceiling." Of the 250 top-grossing films in 2009, women were only 8% of writers, 2% of cinematographers and 7% of directors, research shows (PDF). It took until 2010 for Kathryn Bigelow to become the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker. Women have been directing since the silent film Blank clapperboardera, so it's not for lack of women's interest or ability.

This year's breakout summer hit film, Bridesmaids, was an R-rated comedy written by and starring women. The media made sure to point out that its success ($168 million domestically and counting) was a fluke. In just the opening paragraph of one L.A. Times article, we're told that the "all-girl" ensemble in Bridesmaids has "cast a...spell" over "cutthroat" Hollywood women who promoted the film instead of acting like catty "rivals"--which gives Tinseltown women no credit for praising a story that audiences proved they were hungry to see.

Family entertainment is likewise lacking in gender parity. According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media, women directed only 7% of animated films made from 2006 to 2009. Family films only have one female character for every three male characters. In fact Pixar's next animated feature, Brave, will be the studio's first in 25 years with a female lead character.

Diversity among women is also a big issue. Some women of color are making their own way, such as Issa Rae, the star and driving force behind the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and Friends. reports that Rae set up a Kickstarter so fans could help her raise $30,000 for the series, a goal she met and nearly doubled. (This is likewise how past CFW interim director and board chair Mary MortenYoung women at a Beyondmedia workshop. Photo by Tara Malik supported her documentary Woke Up Black.)

How do we go about changing this? Women in Chicago can use the power of philanthropy to make change locally, and we can also use our dollars to impact Hollywood by supporting women-led projects. In Chicago CFW supports Beyondmedia Education (at right), which empowers young women to tell their stories using multimedia tools; Voces Primeras, which distributes documentary-style features of pioneering Latinas; and the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College Chicago.

Finally, I can't resist mentioning that if you get a ticket to see America Ferrera at our 26th Annual Luncheon, your donation will do double duty: you'll support Chicago Foundation for Women (for which I thank you profusely) and show that a Latina actor/producer/activist can attract a huge crowd. 

CFW in the community
CFW goes west. On August 31, Chicago Foundation for Women was the beneficiary of a house party in the western suburbs. More than 75 people attended the successful event, hosted by Anu and Arjun Aggarwal and co-chaired by Jagriti Ruparel and Bernadette Chopra. Bernadette reports on the fundraiser in the Chicago Tribune's Trib Local Naperville. (At right, two guests enjoy the party.)

Fall-wardrobe shopping? Please consider Eileen Fisher on September 24, when 10% of your bill will benefit Chicago Foundation for Women--plus you'll get $25 off. We are one of 19 women's funds nationwide benefiting from this program. You can shop at three Chicago-area stores, as well as View a postcard with the discount code and information on participating Chicagoland stores.

The three women of Ladies Ring Shout laughingSee a free three-woman performance. The African American Leadership Council of CFW is proud to cosponsor The Public Square's September 23 performance of Ladies Ring Shout, a three-woman show (stars pictured at left) that explores portrayals of women of color in popular culture and shares poignant and personal stories of resistance. The free performance is at the Experimental Station from 7-9 p.m.

Watch documentaries about women and girls. Chicago Foundation for Women is a local community partner for Women and Girls Lead. Six documentary films will be shown in the Chicago Cultural Center between now and May 2012, and up first is Women, War & Peace: Peace Unveiled on September 29 at 6:30 p.m., also sponsored by WBEZ. Women and Girls Lead is a national public media initiative of ITVS Community Cinema.

Also coming soon:
October 14, 6-9 p.m., $15/ticket: Art Walk Scavenger Hunt in Pilsen with the Young Women's Leadership Council (registration opens soon)

October 19, 5:30-7 p.m., free: Community Conversation with Author Roxana Saberi, presented by Facing History and Ourselves and The Allstate Foundation. CFW is a community partner.

Grantees in the news 
Recess will be mandatory in all CPS elementary schools by fall 2012, the Chicago Public Schools promise--thanks to the efforts of POWER-PAC, a parent-led advocacy group at Community Organizing and Family Issues. Read national coverage by The Daily and learn about COFI's Recess for All! campaign.

Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation celebrated passage of the Illinois Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act, part of its End Demand Illinois campaign, and the policy victory got national attention in the New York Times and the Chicago Sun-Times

The next edition of The Feminist Lens, a radio show produced by The Women's Media Group, will revisit the Chicago art installation of The Dinner Party 30 years ago. Tune in to WFMT 98.7 FM or from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. on September 24 to hear from project organizers including Maya Friedler, Hedy Ratner, Jean Hunt, Barbara Ciurej and Bette Cerf Hill. This group also founded CFW's first donor advised fund, the Roslyn Fund for Arts and Letters, which today funds efforts to commemorate and document the Chicago Dinner Party project. Khadine Bennett photo

Congratulations to ACLU of Illinois legislative counsel Khadine Bennett (at right), who was profiled in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin for her outstanding advocacy. Bennett first joined the ACLU in 2008 as its Reproductive Rights Fellow and played an integral role in advocacy efforts around Illinois' Parental Notice of Abortion Act and sex education.

The National Immigrant Justice Center at Heartland Alliance released a policy brief on the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The brief researches the impact of sexual violence against detained immigrants and asks President Obama to expand the Act to cover the nearly 400,000 immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who go through U.S. immigrant detention facilities every year.

Anne K. Ream, founder and director of The Voices and Faces Project, wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune about the parallels between the Dominique Strauss-Khan rape case and the attempted sexual assault that activist Rosa Parks wrote about in recently uncovered letters.

The Empowered Fe Fes, the young women's group at Access Living, performed the theater and dance piece "Victory Over Violence" on August 26. See photos on Facebook.
CFW grantees: Want to be sure your news clips and awards get in the Blast? Email Blast editor Laura at or share the good news on our social media sites!

Upcoming events
Visit our website calendar to see all our upcoming programs and events.

SEPT. 23 (Fri.): Ladies Ring Shout with the African American Leadership Council, 7 p.m.
SEPT. 24 (Sat.): Eileen Fisher benefit  day for CFW
SEPT. 29 (Thurs.): Women and Girls Lead presents Women, War & Peace: Peace Unveiled, 6:30 p.m.
OCT. 3 (Mon.): 26th Annual Luncheon: "Inspired by the Future" featuring America Ferrera
OCT. 14 (Fri.): Art Walk Scavenger Hunt with the Young Women's Leadership Council, 6 p.m.
OCT. 15 (Sat.): Women and Girls Lead presents Deaf Jam, 2 p.m.
OCT. 19 (Wed.): Community Conversation with Author Roxana Saberi, 5:30 p.m.

The Last Word: 9/11 heroines
Early on September 11, 2001, Regina Wilson was just finishing her night shift when her boss asked to pick up an overtime shift. Minutes later, Wilson joined the rest Firefighter helmet graphicof her team as they rushed to the World Trade Center. Wilson was the only woman, left alone African American woman, firefighter from Brooklyn's Engine 219, and nationwide about 11,000 women are firefighters, BET reports. Wilson survived 9/11, though seven of her colleagues did not. She has now worked for Engine 219 for 12 years.

In honor of all first-responders' bravery, this month Regina Wilson gets the last word. "I think one of the biggest things that I hope for is not even so much as an African-American woman, but as a woman, period, that people will be able to see our own personal sacrifices, and that history will show that men were not the only protectors of the city, but there were women there, too....We were here trying to serve our country. We were there trying to protect our neighbors and our neighborhoods. I think that I don't want history to exclude that in the things that have been done with Ground Zero."

United Airlines logo
United is the official airline of Chicago Foundation for Women

Click here to unsubscribe from the Tuesday Blast or change your Chicago Foundation for Women email preferences.