Geena Davis speaking at the annual Women’s Foundation luncheon.

Growing up as (what I felt was) a too-tall girl with boring brown hair featuring accentuated gawkiness during my teen years, I tended to take note of famous women who fit a similar description (minus the gawky) – but made it work for themselves.  As such, I felt a sort of bond with women like Geena Davis and Andie MacDowell. Not because I was ever going to be scooped up by a modeling agency or Hollywood, but because they were women with dark hair who seemed confident and savvy, they were successful…and they towered over men especially when wearing high heels (perhaps more noticeable with Ms. Davis) but wore them anyway. I thought that was pretty awesome.

A little over a week ago, a series of funny little things happened and I suddenly had the opportunity to attend the Women’s Foundation of Colorado annual luncheon. Corona Insights partnered with the Foundation in 2011 to develop a transformational strategic plan for the organization which they unveiled at last years annual luncheon.  I missed last years event and was excited to attend this year. In general, I’m always up for luncheons. I like experiencing the atmosphere, meeting new people, and hopefully having the opportunity to hear some inspirational words. And at this event, it turned out Geena Davis was going to serve as keynote speaker. Yes!!! It felt like I was going to see someone I had been friends with a while ago (who just happens to have won an Academy Award), although we hadn’t been good about keeping in touch.

At the luncheon, we all ate our plates of chicken, listened to Hazel Miller (awesome), enjoyed a performance by The Silhouettes (also awesome), and heard witty remarks from numerous big names in the Denver-area business world including one Mr. (Governor) John Hickenlooper. The buzz in the room before Geena spoke was interesting, though. Around our table, we knew who she was, but wondered what she looks like now, and if she would be an engaging speaker. Our findings: of course, she’s still gorgeous, and happily, her words were clever and inspirational. We laughed, we swelled with pride in our woman-ness…we remembered that movie, “The Fly.”

What was most amazing to me about the luncheon and listening to Geena (hopefully she won’t mind if I call her Geena) was that worlds collided for me when she began to talk about research and the significance it carries in the work that her organization, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, champions. Not that I should need anyone aside from our clients to tell me that what I do is important, but her thoughts on the importance of research brought more validity to what I do on a daily basis. She even talked about the necessity of research in the dispelling of myths, which…hello, I wrote a blog mini series on just that topic!

She made many interesting points as she spoke, including the need for research as proof of reality, since us humans aren’t so good at understanding on an implicit level everything that we see. It’s hard to step back from what you see everyday and ponder how it affects your perceptions, especially after you’ve accepted it as the norm. Case in point are the findings from some of the research Geena’s organization has sponsored that sheds light on many imbalances that exist in the way that women are portrayed in media – if they are portrayed at all. We forget that the norm doesn’t have to be the norm.

What’s even more frightening is that we don’t even notice. We settle in and forget to stop asking questions. Norms are what you get when you stop asking “Why?”, “Why not?”, “How?”, “Who?”, “How many?”, and so on. Norms aren’t always good.

So as I sit here at my desk on a Tuesday afternoon eating popcorn and typing, I shall remember to be proud of what I do (the research, not the popcorn). I’ll be sure to appreciate our clients who never stop asking questions and wondering what the world would be like if we were to change this or that. And I’ll say thanks to Geena Davis for boosting my self-esteem in high school and now again in my adult life.

Here’s to busting myths and norms! Here’s to research!