Reese Witherspoon says there's one question every actress hates having to ask.

At Tuesday’s Glamour Women of the Year Awards, Goldie Hawn presented Reese Witherspoon with an award for creating stronger roles for women in film.

The actor, producer and all-round kick arse woman responded with a powerful speech about gender equality in Hollywood.

Her speech shone a light on the every day sexism women face in the film industry – which even filters down to the lines they say in movies. Witherspoon says her most hated line is “What do we do now?”

“It’s my most hated question. I dread reading scripts that have no women involved in their creation – because inevitably, the girl turns to the guy and says, ‘What do we do now?’”

“I’m serious,” she continued. “Go back and watch any movie, you will see this line over and over.”

“Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don’t they tell people in crisis, even children, ‘If you’re in trouble, talk to a woman.’ It’s ridiculous that a woman wouldn’t know what to do.”

Witherspoon became so fed up with seeing this line in countless Hollywood scripts, she decided to do something about it.

She sat down with the heads of the biggest movie studios in Hollywood and asked them whether any of the movies they were producing had a strong, female lead. And she was met with a deafening silence.

So, along with Bruna Papandrea, Witherspoon founded Pacific Standard and began developing major blockbuster films like Gone Girl and Wild, and the mini-series Big Little Lies.

“I was warned that on the crazy chance Pacific Standard would acquire any good scripts we would never make it past our first few years in business because there just wasn’t a market for buying female-driven material,” Reese explained in her speech. “But like Elle Woods, I do not like to be underestimated.”

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“Female-driven films work,” she continued. “Films with women at the centre are not a public service project, they are a big-time, bottom line-enhancing, money-making commodity.”

Witherspoon ended her speech with a rallying cry for women to step up, to go after their dreams, and to shake up the gender balance in every single industry.

“I urge each one of you to ask yourselves: What do we do now? That’s a big question. What is it in life that you think you can’t accomplish? Or what is it that people have said that you cannot do? Wouldn’t it feel really good to prove them all wrong? Because I believe ambition is not a dirty word. It’s just believing in yourself and your abilities.

“Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change.”

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