Equal opportunity through knowledge and research

Advisory Board

Martha Lauzen HeadshotDR. MARTHA M. LAUZEN

Dr. Martha M. Lauzen is the founder and Executive Director of the Center and serves as a professor in the Television, Film, and New Media program at San Diego State University.  For over 20 years, her ground-breaking studies, including the pioneering Celluloid Ceiling, have provided the foundation for industry and public discussions of women’s employment and representation in film and television.  A nationally and internationally recognized authority on women in media, her research has been widely published in scholarly journals, entertainment trade publications, and the popular press.   Dr. Lauzen and her work have been featured in a number of documentaries including Half the Picture (2018), MAKERS:  Women in Hollywood (2014), and Miss Representation (2011).   Her research has also been integrated into a number of efforts to increase the employment of women in both film and television, including the ACLU’s 2015 letter to government agencies requesting an investigation into the hiring practices or directors, and California Assembly hearings on increasing diversity in entertainment.  She holds a doctorate from the University of Maryland and M.A. and B.A. degrees from the University of Iowa.

Mara Brock Akil HeadshotMARA BROCK AKIL

Writer and producer of over 300 episodes of television, Mara Brock Akil began her career as a writer on South CentralMoesha, and The Jamie Foxx Show.  In 2000, she created her hit series, Girlfriends, which aired for eight seasons on UPN and the CW. With the success of that show, Mara developed a spin-off series, The Game, which helped bolster the fledgling CW.  When the program moved to BET, the series finished its run with 147 episodes.  In 2013, Mara developed her first 1-hour drama, Being Mary Jane, for BET: the 90-minute pilot debuted to over 4 million viewers.  She is also the co-creator, executive producer, writer, and director on the OWN series, Love Is . . . , based on her relationship with husband Salim Akil.  Akil also co-created and serves as executive producer on the CW series, Black Lightening.  Consistently recognized as a leader by her peers in the industry, she has been named one of the 50 Power Showrunners by The Hollywood Reporter multiple times. In 2014, Girls Inc. recognized Akil for her work inspiring and advocating for girls everywhere.  She also dedicates a great deal of time to philanthropic efforts including: LAXArt, The Samburu Project, Dance Studio Harlem, and The Studio Museum in Harlem.


Allison Anders is an award-winning film and television writer and director.  Her films include Border Radio (1987), Sugar Town (2000), Gas Food Lodging (1992), Mi Vida Loca (1993), Grace of My Heart (1996), Four Rooms (1995), Things Behind the Sun (2001), Strutter (2013), and Ring of Fire (2013).  Her films have received the New York Film Critics Circle Award, the SHINE Award, and the Peabody Award.  She was also awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Foundation Fellowship.  Anders is well known in television for directing episodes of hit shows such as Riverdale, Orange Is the New BlackGang RelatedThe DivideMurder in the FirstProof, Turn: Washington’s SpiesSex and the CityGross PointeCold CaseThe L WordMen in TreesWhat About Brian?, Southland, and The Mentalist.  Anders is a Distinguished Professor of Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara and, with daughter Tiffany Anders, co-founded the Don’t Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival in Los Angeles.


Madelyn launched her own events and marketing company, Madelyn Hammond & Associates (MHA) 14 years ago which specializes in events, talent booking and video content production.  Her company produces a number of award shows including the American Cinematheque Tribute to the Crafts, the Critics Choice Celebration of Black Cinema & Television, the Final Draft Award Show and Deal with It: A Women’s Conference.  Prior to launching her own company, Madelyn was named the first Chief Marketing Officer for Variety where she oversaw global branding and PR. Throughout her career, Madelyn had extensive experience in marketing, licensing, exhibition and special events working with companies including Landmark Theatres, Sony Pictures, AMC Theatres, MGM/UA and The Coca-Cola Company.

Kathy Najimy HeadshotKATHY NAJIMY

Multi-hyphenate Kathy Najimy is an actress, director, writer, producer, and activist. She is known for her memorable performances in over 25 films including The Descendants (2015), A Change of Heart (2015), Madea Christmas (2013), WALL-E (2008), The Wedding Planner (2001),  Hope Floats (1998), Zack and Reba (1998) Sister Act 1 & 2 (1992, 1993), Hocus Pocus (1993) and Hocus Pocus 2 (2022), Soapdish (1991), and The Hard Way (1991).  On television, Najimy was a recurring guest on Younger.  Her other television credits include HBO’s VEEP, Comedy Central’s Inside Amy SchumerDifficult PeopleVeronica’s ClosetNumb3rsThe Big CDesperate HousewivesDrop Dead DivaEllen, and Ugly Betty.  Najimy voiced the character of Peggy Hill for 14 seasons on the Emmy Award-winning King of the Hill for which she received several awards. She wrote and starred in The Kathy and Mo Show, a two-woman feminist comedy that ran for 2 years off-Broadway and was featured in 2 award-winning HBO specials.  Najimy is also a proud feminist and social justice advocate who has been recognized with numerous honors for her work supporting women’s and LGBT rights, AIDS, animal rights, and reproductive rights.

Robin Swicord HeadshotROBIN SWICORD

Robin Swicord is an Oscar and Golden Globe nominated writer, director, and producer.  She first emerged as a writer with her off-Broadway comedy/dramas Last Days at the Dixie Girl Café and Criminal Minds, and went on to write Shag (1989), Little Women (1994), The Perez Family (1995), Matilda (1996), Practical Magic (1998), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), and Wakefield (2016).  Robin received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay for her collaboration with Eric Roth on the story for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  In recent years, she has moved into the director’s chair, helming The Jane Austen Book Club, an adaptation of Karen Joy Fowler’s novel, and Wakefield, based on the short story by E. L. Doctorow.  She also serves on the Governor’s Board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Board of the Writers Guild Foundation.

Nia Vardalos HeadshotNIA VARDALOS

Nia Vardalos rocked the romantic comedy genre with My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002).  The film remains the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time.  Vardalos won the Independent Spirit Award for “Best Debut Performance,” and the film won the Peoples’ Choice Award for “Favorite Comedy Motion Picture.” She also received Academy Award and Writers Guild Award screenplay nominations and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award performance nominations.  She reprised her role as the lovable Toula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016), and directed and stars in the upcoming My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 (2023).  Additional film credits include Larry Crowne (2011), My Life in Ruins (2009),  I Hate Valentine’s Day (2009), and Connie and Carla (2004).  She also serves as a writer and executive producer on the Bravo dramedy, Suburbs Famous.  Vardalos was also featured in Netflix’s three Ivy + Bean (2022) films, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (2022), and The Curse of Bridge Hollow (2022).  She created, produced and starred in the original Audible series, MOTIVATED! (2022).  Her television credits include roles in Black WidowCrazy Ex-GirlfriendJane the VirginThe CatchGravesLaw & Order: SVU, and Grey’s Anatomy.  Vardalos is also the New York Times bestselling author of her memoir, Instant Mom, and donates all proceeds to adoption charities.