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“Take it from me, a male in his 30s with lots of expendable income — this is a great time to be a woman in Hollywood,” Joel McHale said Monday night as he kicked off Elle’s annual star-packed tribute to Women in Hollywood at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Joking aside, the careers of the honorees — actresses Viola Davis, Barbra Streisand, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Aniston, Evan Rachel Wood, Freida Pinto, Michelle Pfeiffer and Elizabeth Olsen, and DreamWorks chief executive officer Stacey Snider — proved, in the words of Pfeiffer, that “young women today have role models everywhere.”

Wood, Pinto and Olsen were awestruck by their company.

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“She’s one of the reasons I wanted to become an actor,” said Olsen of Pfeiffer.

Wood confessed: “I don’t know how many times I’ve pretended to be Catwoman in my room, with my jump rope the whip.”

Pinto, meanwhile, swooned over Streisand.

“I can’t believe you are right here in front of me,” the younger actress said. “You’re not only a legend in Hollywood, but literally all over the world. I can say that because I come from India.”

Reese Witherspoon, who introduced Aniston, kept the adulation lighthearted.

“You just want to get your nails done with her, and you want to make out with her at the same time, at least I do,” she said. “And that’s what we do sometimes on Saturdays.”

Witherspoon’s fellow presenters included Jon Hamm, Laura Dern and Kathryn Bigelow, who lauded Streisand as “somebody who has mastered virtually every art form imaginable: directing, acting, composing, singing, producing, writing.”

Katherine Heigl, Donna Karan, Francisco Costa, Abigail Breslin and Jayma Mays were among the audience members at the event, which was sponsored by Calvin Klein Collection, L’Oréal Paris and David Yurman.

The honorees emphasized that there’s still a lot of ground to make up. Out of the top 250 films released last year, Streisand pointed out that women directed only 7 percent and wrote only 10 percent.

Davis was rewarded with a standing ovation after she shared her story of growing up poor in Rhode Island, dreaming of Hollywood success, and the continued struggle to find nuanced roles for black women.

“As I was walking the red carpet, someone asked me, ‘What sets you apart from everybody in the room?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m black.’ Just being real,” said Davis, before adding, “You don’t always love what you do, but what keeps me in the business is hope, and that’s the hope that women of color are also part of the narrative.”

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