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Diane von Furstenberg on Oscar Nominee Gender Imbalance: ‘We Have a Lot of Work to Do’

Thirty-three of this year’s female Oscar nominees enjoyed one another’s company at a private luncheon Wednesday afternoon at the home of Diane von Furstenberg. The third annual event was hosted by von Furstenberg, Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

Nominees and guests enjoyed an impressive buffet that included fresh lobster and lamb stew while dining informally on the sprawling lawn; many attendees were happy to sit on blankets and enjoy the sun. Last year’s best supporting actress winner, Patricia Arquette, said she was glad to be “passing the torch” to a new winner in a few days. Another Oscar winner, Ellen Burstyn, was greeted with enthusiasm by the attendees, receiving a loud round of applause when introduced in von Furstenberg’s remarks.

But it wasn’t just talent in front of the camera celebrating camaraderie that day. As Hudson noted, “We have visual effects artists, we have production design, we have costume design,” praising women in all parts of the industry.

In fact, the crowd included all kinds of artists, including but not limited to actors (“The Hateful Eight” star Jennifer Jason Leigh), producers (Blye Pagon Faust and Nicole Rocklin of “Spotlight” and Mary Parent of “The Revenant”), writers (Andrea Berloff of “Straight Outta Compton” and Phyllis Nagy of “Carol”) and editors (Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”).

“Last year, we were at 22 nominees, and this year we have 33 nominees,” von Furstenberg said. “We have a lot of work to do on getting more women’s stories and women directors and women screenwriters and women set designers. The first thing we can do is believe in ourselves and do it and make it happen.”

She went on to tell a story about how, even as a “complete feminist,” she could find herself making conclusions, as when her doctor introduced her to a surgeon who happened to be female. “The first thing I said was, ‘Oh, a woman!’” admitted von Furstenberg. “And I couldn’t believe I actually said that, I was so ashamed.”

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