In 1989 I tried to start the first venture capital fund to invest in woman entrepreneurs. Women weren’t (and still aren’t) gaining access to money. I figured if I could invest in the ten most brilliant women in the country I could make lots of money for my investors, but more importantly I could prove that women are a great investment. That would attract even more general investment in women and we would finally be working our way towards parity in all aspects of our world.
The fund didn’t work out. But over the course of my effort I learned so much about all the cultural factors that keep women from achieving their objectives. I wrote a book about it, but it was so depressing I couldn’t figure out who would want to read it. The issues just seemed too enormous to ever be resolved. Then the 2008 election cycle hit and Hillary and Sarah were being eviscerated. It was clear that, decades later, these enormous issues were still weighing down American women in general. How could I make people pay attention?
That’s when I turned the book into a play and joined your world of the stage. “And That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of” premiered in San Francisco in October, 2012. I found a director who was on the same wavelength and I self-produced amid the cacophony of the national election and the World Series (hooray, the SF Giants won!) Okay, I probably should have waited until the craziness died down, but I was so outraged by the inane comments spewing from more feeble members of the Republican party that I wanted to get out there and do battle.
The play follows the arc of creating the fund, but it incorporates all the complicated issues that get in our way. There are only three actors and they all play different versions of me, demonstrating that women had to change their stripes depending on who we were dealing with. Simply staged and a little over an hour long, it moves very fast, with 80s music providing scene transition. Abba’s “Money, Money, Money,” and Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money” are just a couple. It incorporates both humor and heartbreak. But it also celebrates the uniquely American talents of innovation and entrepreneurship.
So this is where you come in. Back in the late 80s I figured out that as long as women are cut out of the financial markets that make things happen, we aren’t going to make things happen. This is just how things work in a capitalist country like ours. Lots of books have been written about the lack of parity that cripples us in every aspect of American life, including popular books like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In.” Yes, there has been change, but not enough. I still believe access to money is the key.
Reading the Anniversary blogs I couldn’t help concluding that we should use the power of the purse to accelerate change. All of us reading this probably know that most of the audience for theater is female. Many bring their male partners, but if it weren’t for women theater in general wouldn’t exist. What if we only bought tickets for theater productions that were produced, directed or written by women? Yes, it’s something of a Greek drama, but it would be a demonstration of our financial power.
I so admire the talent and effort of members of this organization who have raised their voices, but I can’t help wanting those voices to have a practical purpose that results in ticket sales. We are women, hear us roar, as Helen Reddy* sang many years ago.
*”I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, 1975. Download it. Now.
© Jennifer Wilson. All rights reserved. This work may be republished, only with full attribution to the author.