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Suffragette Film Screening among School’s Initiatives to Support Women in Business

October 19, 2015
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It was an intense awakening for many students and community members taking in a special screening of the film “Suffragette” in the School’s Storer Auditorium, nearly two weeks before the historical drama hits movie theaters Oct. 23.

Part of a series of School of Business discussions and events centered on what it means to be a woman in the business world, the screening of the film, about a group of working class women leading the British women’s suffrage movement, left audience members grateful for those who paved the way, and feeling inspired to continue the fight.

“Not many movies drive me to tears, but oh my God, I can’t believe that happened!” said School of Business sophomore and entrepreneurship major Paula Landron, 19, about the risks the main characters took and consequences they faced in their fight to gain voting rights for women.  “Watching this movie makes you see how far we’ve come, but it ends with Saudi Arabia and how women there still don’t have the right to vote. This still happens! It makes you think.”

This is precisely what School leaders are striving for with these events.

“We want to reach out to the community – not just the University of Miami, but the wider South Florida community also – to get us thinking about women’s issues and the challenges women in business face, and what that means for society,” said Ann Olazábal, vice dean for undergraduate business education. “For us, it’s not just about what it means to be a woman in business. It’s about whether our curriculum reflects the need for leadership to match workplace diversity and what role the curriculum, faculty, and instructional materials play in making for a female-friendly learning environment.”

The screening comes on the heels of an August meeting that Dean Gene Anderson attended at the White House, where he met with other top business school deans to discuss ways to increase access to and diversity in business education.

The movie begins with sobering historical facts from London in 1912. “Women don’t have the judgment to vote in political affairs,” said one. “Women are represented by their fathers and husbands,” said another. Frustrated by the ineffectiveness of peaceful campaigns, one group takes an increasingly violent approach; particularly as police aggression toward them escalates.

Following the screening, Christine Birch, president of marketing for the film’s distributor, Focus Features, answered questions from the audience, which included special guest David Prodger, the British Consul General in Miami. Birch also talked about why she brought the film to campus. “It’s a rarity these days in Hollywood to see a movie that genuinely surprises you, and this movie genuinely surprised me,” she said. “It has so much to say about where we’ve come from, where we are today and where we are going.”

Birch said she was struck by how the main character transforms, from resignation to the status quo to discovery of what might be possible. “For women entering the marketplace today, that’s still relevant,” Birch said. “What is my role, and what do I have to do in this role to make the impossible possible?”

Second-year medical student Nawara Alawa, 24, said it’s good to be reminded of what women endured. “The movie was extremely powerful,” she said. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but we have a long way to go.”

Landron, freshly inspired, concurred: “I know the difficulties I will face in the workforce, but I am prepping myself to not only fight them but end them.”

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