By Lindsey Bahr
June 12, 2014 at 06:30 PM EDT
Charley Gallay/Getty Images

When you bring Cate Blanchett, Shonda Rhimes, and Kerry Washington together to discuss the state of women in entertainment, you know things are about to get interesting. Especially considering both the shockingly low number of women behind the camera and the fact that Frozen, co-written and directed by Jennifer Lee, is now the fifth highest grossing film of all time worldwide.

On Wednesday, Women in Film Los Angeles presented its 2014 Crystal + Lucy Awards to a formidable group of women, including Blanchett, Washington, Lee, Eva Longoria, and Rose Byrne. Though the theme of the event was “excellence,” the theme of the speeches seemed to be failure — the idea that equality in entertainment won’t be achieved until women are allowed to fail as spectacularly as men. As Blanchett said: “We are not gathering because we’re niche, but rather because I think female achievement is still largely discussed as being niche.”

Check out some of the best quotes from the evening below.

CATE BLANCHETT (receiving the Crystal Award for Excellence in Film)

“What about the missteps and the failures and the f—ups? These are the side effects of risk taking, and in my experience — my small experience — when risks are taken, that’s when the true rewards are reaped. I think we are incrementally and undeniably claiming the success space, but I wonder if we’re still understandably unsure of the success space and the fear that one failure — be it box office, critical, or creative — could end it, for me, as a woman in film.”

“We, in relation to our male counterparts, are not trusted with those big budgets, those large, high-powered casts, those non niche stories — the action movies, the superheroes. There’s a fear that we can’t fail when these opportunities come our way. There are many massive box office — let’s face it — f—ups, blunders that seem completely surmountable and we can justify them when a male counterpart is helming. But when a similar misstep is made by a female…it’s still feared to be a career-killer.”

“I believe that a creative career is only as good as the risks that you take with it.”

SHONDA RHIMES (presenting the Lucy Award for Excellence in Television to Kerry Washington)

“She’s flawless on the red carpet. She’s politically active. She’s always interesting and she’s always interested.”

“Because she is the first [black woman to lead a network drama] in 40 years, that means a lot of requirements are placed on her, both as Olivia and as Kerry. When you are the only one, people feel you must represent everyone. But that is not storytelling, and that is not creative, and that is not acting, and that is not our chameleon.”

“Kerry Washington is a trailblazer because she has fearlessly, and with great grace and style, dealt with and challenged the media and the world’s attempt to label and define her and who she should be based on being the first black woman to lead a network drama in 40 years. She has courageously leaned in to playing a flawed, complicated, messy, morally grey woman. A black woman who is not a role model, not perfect, not uplifting, not an idol, and not an icon.”

KERRY WASHINGTON (receiving the Lucy Award for Excellence in Television)

“We as women put ourselves in this situation of feeling like we can’t take a risk. Like, in order to step out there we have to be perfect, because we’re scared that if we don’t say the right thing or do the right thing, it will reflect poorly on ourselves and on our community — whether that community be women, people of color, or both. So, sometimes, we don’t step out there.”

“I work for a woman, Shonda Rhimes, who because of her courage to step into her light and step up and own her voice, has provided an opportunity for so many other woman to soar in front of and behind the camera. When we step up for ourselves, we create opportunity whether it’s because we inspire other people or because we employ other people…or both.”

“We need to not be afraid of taking those risks that Cate [Blanchett] talked about. We need to be willing to be uncomfortable, to be flawed, to be imperfect, to own our voice, to step into our light so that we can continue to inspire other people and employ other people and make room for more and more voices.”

JENNIFER LEE (receiving the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award)

“Animation reaches the new generations first. These women are not just making sure the films rock because they’re so talented in their own right, but they’re making sure we’re sending to the world very strong, relatable , dynamic, messy, flawed, good, real, female characters.”

EVA LONGORIA (receiving the Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award)

“I found that the people who know how to break the chains of oppression are usually the people who know how those chains operated. If you listen to them, they will tell you how to fix it.”