Business & Economy

Milken Institute conference brings together billionaires, politicians, celebrities and "fearless girl"

Attendees at this year's Milken Institute Global Conference posed for photos with this replica of Wall Street's
Attendees at this year's Milken Institute Global Conference posed for photos with this replica of Wall Street's "Fearless Girl" statue, April 28, 2018.
The Milken Institute

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The most photographed attendee at this week's annual conference put on by Santa Monica economic think tank the Milken Institute might just be the "Fearless Girl."

A replica of the original statue was on display at the Institute's 2018 Global Conference, ready for anyone wanting to get a photo with the little bronze sculpture famous for standing up to Wall Street's "Charging Bull."

It was a fitting year to host the statue, with the #MeToo movement sparking conversations among the financial elites, politicians and celebrities rubbing elbows at the Beverly Hilton. Sexual harassment and gender equality were on the agenda, along with other topics like global trade, regulation of tech industry giants, and the future of healthcare.  

A Monday afternoon panel featured actress Ashley Judd, who appeared at the conference the same day she filed a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein. The complaint claims he derailed her career and cost her lucrative acting roles after she rejected his sexual demands.  

Other speakers on that panel included Harvard Law School visiting professor Catharine MacKinnon and Stacy Smith, director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and an advocate for inclusion riders in employment contracts.

Milken President Richard Ditizio said companies need to take diversity initiatives out of their human resources departments and instead start rewarding — or punishing — managers on how well they meet corporate goals around inclusion.

"It's just puzzling that American businesses have spent 40-plus years on this issue, and there's been so little movement," Ditizio said. "Today, 95 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are still men."

Milken's conference continues through Wednesday. It has already featured talks from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Goldman Sachs president David Solomon and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.