As it is International Women’s Month, this March the team at Equities.com is excited to explore themes of gender diversity and the importance of empowering women in the workplace. It’s a theme that’s recently been raised in many industries over the past few years, but in the male-dominated field of finance, it’s a particularly pertinent concern.
That’s what made the release of the film Equity last July such an exciting moment for women in finance. In fact, the film is also a watershed moment for Hollywood, having been directed by a woman, produced by women, written by a woman, and even largely funded by female investors. Equities.com Broadcast Contributor Silvia Davi recently sat down with two of these women: actress and producer Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black) and Executive Producer Candy Straight to discuss the film’s impressive path from inception to release, and the way it’s inspired women from a variety of fields to achieve their dreams.
“My partner on this, a woman named Sarah, came to me and said ‘What about a movie about women on Wall Street?’ And I said no,” Reiner says. “I was like, ‘I don’t love Wall Street movies.’ And then, I talked to another friend of mine, who consults in this area, and about women in business across all areas. And the stories she told me about women and the inequities they experience made me go ‘Oh my god, we have to make this movie.’ And I think that the message that I really want to bring is: How can we change things for women across industries? There are so many deep problems that we have to address, and you can’t change things until you address the problem.”
Once the decision to make the movie was made, the determination of the team behind it made for an incredibly quick production process. “We had six meet-and-greets over six months,” explains Straight, “and we raised the money. Probably, that’s record time for an independent film. So, we did it in six months, and I think one of the important things is, we gave all the women on Wall Street who invested in it a time frame. ‘We are going to shoot this movie in July, so therefore, your money has to be in no later than June, and if you can’t that’s fine.’ And it all came in. We raised the money pretty easily. Everybody identified with the story and over 80% of the money came from women.”
Both before and after its release, the film has resonated with any number of women – and it should come as no surprise, as much of the story comes directly from the real experiences of female finance professionals. “We interviewed countless women,” Reiner says, “and so many of the stories are based on true stories.” For example, the film’s ending is based on a story told by two separate women… very well-known women, according to Reiner. Perhaps most interesting, though, “Young women who see the movie are still inspired. Even though our ending is not necessarily happy,” Reiner says, “they’re deeply inspired by this woman who gets back up.”
From Sundance to the Small Screen
Via Travis Wise
The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January of 2016, and it was very quickly picked up for distribution. “Our IPO!” Reiner jokes. And after debuting to generally strong reviews in July of last year, the journey of the filmmakers is still only just beginning, as the story may next be developed as a TV series. “Sony Pictures Classics bought the movie, Sony Tristar bought the rights to the TV series, so we’re moving forward with that, we’ll see where that goes,” says Reiner, “which is incredibly exciting. What’s amazing about this film is that it’s had a much bigger life than so many independent films do, because so many groups want to continue to show it, and use it as sort of a teaching tool, and use it as a way to empower women – which, for me, was the dream from the beginning.”
Having found success in their own right, Reiner and Straight are now directing their energy toward giving back by helping other women looking to turn their dreams into reality. Reiner explains that supporting women can best be achieved by focusing on three key initiatives: Hire, Invest and Mentor. She also offers some very useful advice for men who are in a position to make positive change. “You can’t hire, unless you’re willing to look at your unconscious bias,” Reiner says, “and that’s a big thing for men. I think, we as women – we as human beings – we want to hire what we know. We see someone, and if they look like us, and feel like us, and sound like us, we’re comfortable with them. And I think, for men, it’s a little bit of a bigger leap to hire a woman, because they don’t look, feel or sound like themselves.”
Straight suggests that, in the end, the best argument for gender diversity just might be an economic one. “If American corporations want to get the best, they have to open their eyes to 50% of the population, which is female,” Straight says. “We have to continue that message. Bring young girls along, tell them they can do whatever they want to do. If they want to be a housewife, they can be a housewife, if they want to be the CEO of Nasdaq, they can be the CEO of Nasdaq. But we have to open doors to them, and tell them it’s their choice.”
Ultimately, Reiner and Straight found that the best way to reach the Wall Street insiders who can make real change in the industry is to make a great Wall Street film, and on that front, it appears the team behind Equity have nothing to worry about. “I got an email through my manager from a man in finance in Finland,” Reiner says, “who wrote this email saying ‘This is the most realistic Wall Street movie that I’ve ever seen.’ So I think a lot of men are kind of gender blind to the film, and just see it and think ‘Wow, it’s such a great Wall Street movie!’”
EQUITY is now available on Blu-ray and digital