PARK CITY — Speakers at the Utah Women's Leadership celebration during the Sundance Film Festival Thursday noted the impact of "Me Too," even finding the positives that are rising out of the movement.
"I think in the past women felt more competitive," actress and director Heather Graham said. "Now, I think women are banding together and they’re saying, 'There’s a sisterhood, and we want things to be better for all women.'"
Graham helped host the event and told attendees gathered for the luncheon and awards ceremony that during her time in the film industry, she had experienced multiple incidents of sexist behavior. Graham is also among the women who have cited sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The fifth-edition of the leadership celebration honored 12 Utah women who are stars in their own right of business, government, philanthropy and academia.
Honoree Pamela Atkinson, longtime advocate for Utah's homeless population and an adviser to Gov. Gary Herbert, said now is the time for communication to play a bigger role in addressing issues and moving forward together.
"All that's going on shows us that it's time to listen to each other," Atkinson said. "There's a time for talking, but taking the time to really listen to each other ... will help us heal, and we'll all be better for it."
The event, organized by Zions Bank and the Sundance Institute, began as an effort to highlight the work of Utah women in the film industry but has since drawn back for a wide-angle shot to capture the work of women leaders from multiple disciplines and professions.
Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson said this year's edition was happening at a particularly appropriate time amid national conversations taking place about gender equity and the balance of power in the work world.
"I think this year's celebration is very timely as we celebrate this group of Utah women who have distinguished themselves as leaders," Anderson said. "What we've seen coming to light recently is something that's been happening for a long time and is evidence of, really, inappropriate uses of power."
Graham has a new film coming out in February, "Half Magic," that she said was inspired in part by the need to respond to this darker part of the world of moviemaking. She also noted that one of the positives coming out of the public conversations about sexual harassment and sexual misconduct is how it was drawing women together.
Salt Lake City restaurateur Lucy Cardenas, president of the Red Iguana restaurant group, noted she faced the double challenges in the business world as a woman and a Mexican-American. Cardenas, who built her popular chain of eateries from a humble west-side venue of 18-seats into a multilocation mini-empire, said in spite of her successes, changes are still needed to level the playing field for all.
"Utah still has challenges and we need to do better," Cardenas said. "But I'm inspired and excited by seeing all these amazing women here today who are accomplished and leaders in their fields. It's an honor to be among them."
Sundance veteran Margaret Gilles, a Denver resident, said there was a noticeable difference to the energy of the Sundance Film Festival compared to past years, and that the Women's Leadership gathering seemed to capture the essence of the change of vibe.
"It's still very much about the art of film and the people who excel in this medium," Gilles said. "But just hearing the conversations going on and talking to other people here this year, there's a lot of talk about the "Me Too" and "Time's Up" movements.
"And, being here to see these women being honored is, hopefully, showing the way we should be heading."1 comment on this story
Other women honored Thursday were Dianne James, chief human resources officer, Zions Bank; Stephenie Larsen, founder, Encircle House; Rebecca Livermore, visual artist; Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden and Zions Bank advisory board member; Patricia Morton, dean, University of Utah School of Nursing; Judge Jill Parrish, U.S. District Court District of Utah; Virginia Pearce, director, Utah Film Commission; Heidi Redd, Utah land conservationist; Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera; and Carrie Romano, CEO, Intermountain Ronald McDonald House.
Lifetime achievement awards were also given to screen legend and Sundance Institute founder/President Robert Redford and actress, producer and women's rights activist Geena Davis.