Jodie Foster, Diane Keaton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Sofia Coppola, Hilary Swank, Kerry Washington, Diane Kruger and newcomer Jessica Chastain, who were recognized Monday night for their achievements in film, said they were inspired by other actresses and female filmmakers.
Foster, who knew at age 6 she wanted to be a director, looked to European filmmakers Lina Wertmuller and Margarethe von Trotta.
"I thought, well, if they could do it, an American can do it, too," she said.
Meanwhile, Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow called Foster "a national treasure," and Alyson Hannigan said Foster inspired her to become an actress.
"I've always loved her," Hannigan said, "So if I get to meet her tonight, like, I might pass out."
Kruger, Swank and actress Viola Davis all named Meryl Streep as one of their acting heroes. For Washington, it's Annette Bening. For Coppola, it's Anjelica Huston. Hudson and Paltrow each said their actress moms were inspirations.
With all the love in the room, director-producer Adam Shankman, who hosted the event at the Four Seasons Hotel, concluded that "being a woman in Hollywood totally rocks."
Harrison Ford speculated that the event "came to be back in the days when they said, 'There were no good parts for women' and 'Women aren't highly regarded."'
Now, he said, "Women run Hollywood. Absolutely run Hollywood. And I'm glad."
Though significant gains have been made, honorees and presenters said they're still fighting for parity.
"There needs to be more focus on great stories, great roles for women that are just as powerful as they are with men, filled with duality, where we're all not always nice and sexless after 40 and humorless after 40," Davis said. "I think there are some amazing women out there, and their stories need to be told."
Foster said it might seem quaint to celebrate women "when they really are half of what's going on in the film business."
"But you think about it, it's women directors that are the last hurdle, and we haven't jumped over that," she said. "Now we have women studio executives, we have women producers. And, for some reason, that hasn't really translated into much gains for women (directors)."
Keaton said it's up to women to work together to tell their stories.
"We're bound together by the inexplicable wonder by being what?" she said. "Just women."