Salma Hayek pushes for gender equity in Hollywood during Power of Women event

Salma Hayek arrives at the Variety Power of Women luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire hotel on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Salma Hayek arrives at the Variety Power of Women luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire hotel on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Salma Hayek believes the entertainment industry is on the brink of change when it comes to how women are regarded and represented.

“We're not the women who just want to see a movie of how our prince is going to come and rescue everyone," the Mexican-born actress said Variety’s annual Power of Women event on Friday. “We changed, but nobody took the time to change with us in the industry. So it's a really exciting time to really define who we are, and I think this is the true heart of equality: not only when we can make as much and we can speak as loud, but when we really have the freedom to be ourselves instead of trying to survive or fit in.”

Hayek, 49, was honored and celebrated for her philanthropic contributions alongside Anna Kendrick, Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey.

The private, three-hour event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel was part pep-talk for gender equality and part call to action for charitable work that, as Winfrey put it, allows each woman to "live from the heart of yourself and give (back) what you have been given."

Winfrey told a story of a lonely Christmas when her family was too poor to afford gifts, and how much it meant when a group of nuns visited their home with food and toys. That experience borne in her a desire to help others, she said, which she has acted on throughout her career. Ava DuVernay, who introduced Winfrey, said the mogul has donated more than $350 million from her personal coffers to colleges and charitable organizations. Winfrey was recognized specifically for her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, which will graduate its fifth class of students this year.

Kendrick spoke of the power of celebrity to give voice to young people, as she does through the Trevor Project, which provides support and services for gay, lesbian and transgender youth.

Paltrow said that when she started in Hollywood, a career-focused woman was called "ambitious," which was a bad word. But she feels palpable change in the air.

"I believe that we are on the verge of creating a new archetype," said the actress, who was recognized for her association with L.A. Kitchen. "It is possible to be a woman who is intelligent, thoughtful, articulate and vicious, while being a woman who is maternal, nurturing, sexual and for other women."

20th Century Fox Chief Executive Jim Gianopulus, who was the first man to be honored by the annual event, said he hopes that the concept of honoring men for empowering women will soon be “obsolete and seem ridiculous.”

"We're living through an era where women are making astonishing, even revolutionary, creative contributions on a daily basis," Gianopulos said. "And there's no reason that in any part of the entertainment business women shouldn't be provided with the same opportunities in the same numbers and with the same compensation as their male counterparts."

Actress Tracee Ellis Ross hosted the Power of Women luncheon, where Reese Witherspoon, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lisa Kudrow and "American Horror Story" creator Ryan Murphy were among the presenters. HALO Foundation founder Rebecca Welsh and YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki were also recognized.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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