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How Showbiz Supported and Capitalized on the Day Without a Woman Strike

The Day Without a Woman strike was embraced by the entertainment industry on Wednesday as many companies  granted employees a paid day off to observe the event meant to highlight the persistence of gender bias and inequality.

Hard numbers of participation rates at the major networks and studios were impossible to obtain, but it was clear from anecdotal reports that the daylong strike movement, organized largely via social media by the same groups that staged the Women’s March events in January, made an impact at the highest levels of Hollywood. The strike coincided with International Women’s Day, an annual observance that dates back to the early 1900s.

Women who did not have the option of skipping work for the day were encouraged to wear red in a sign of solidarity. A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc made a point of wearing red shoes to her company’s long-planned board meeting on Wednesday. A+E employees were encouraged to use one of their two yearly volunteer days granted by the company to engage in community service activities. A large group of women from Lifetime’s offices in Los Angeles volunteered for the day at a nearby women’s shelter.

On Broadway, most female stars took a show-must-go-on attitude to the strike — two shows, in fact, since most productions play both a matinee and an evening performance on Wednesdays. Actresses including Cate Blanchett, currently appearing in “The Present,” and Sally Field, now in “The Glass Menagerie,” showed up for work, and most of Broadway’s offices, many of which skew female, kept chugging along. But Broadway Strong, an industry activist group, organized a show of force in which theater folks could participate: a rally at Duffy Square in the theater district, set for 5:30 p.m., during the break between 2 p.m. matinees and 8 p.m. evening shows.

The major talent agencies all gave employees flexibility to take part in various strike-related events. CAA arranged transportation for employees to a march in downtown L.A. Most of the women in ICM Partners’ New York office attended the midday march in Midtown.

“We told all employees — female or male — if you want to do this, we’re on your side,” said ICM managing partner Chris Silbermann. “Everybody chooses to be involved in political causes in their own ways.”

Facebook asked employees to take paid time off if they were missing work on Wednesday, but a spokeswoman said those who didn’t would not be “penalized.”

“We do support employees’ right to organize, and people are always free to express their opinion with protests,” the Facebook rep said. She declined to indicate how big an impact the Day Without a Woman phenomenon has had on Facebook (which has 17,000 employees worldwide) in terms of absenteeism, but she said, “Our culture is focused on impact, not facetime.”

While some companies gave their employees the option to take time off to attend strikes, staffers at daily entertainment news shows were readying up to go on-air. Talent on “Entertainment Tonight” dressed in red on tonight’s broadcast, which featured a segment about Women’s Day. “ET’s” sister series, “The Insider,” did the same. Likewise, on “Access Hollywood Live,” hosts Natalie Morales and Kit Hoover both wore red and welcomed the hosts of “The Talk” on the show to chat about equal pay. Meanwhile, E! News aired a “kick-ass women segment,” covering powerful women in Hollywood.

No question, Wednesday’s events also became a marketing opportunity for media firms. MTV turned the “M” in its logo upside down in tribute and dedicated most of its website to information about the strike. Apple Music, iTunes, and iBooks featured female artists and their projects prominently on its displays through the day.

The social-savvy Freeform captured their younger-skewing demo by celebrating Women’s Day all over social media. On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the cabler posted female empowerment quotes from characters of their shows, including “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Fosters,” and “Stitchers.” Freeform also reimagined their key art without women, proving that without female stars, their shows wouldn’t exist.

CBS issued a slew of tweets featuring the female stars of its shows emulating in the famous arm-flexing “We Can Do It” pose from the World War II-era poster.

(Reported by Cynthia Littleton, Gordon Cox, Elizabeth Wagmeister, Justin Kroll, and Todd Spangler)

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