Elizabeth Banks on Overcoming 'People's Low Expectations': It's 'When I Feel the Most Proud'

The multi-hyphenate star tells PEOPLE, "I've been in a few rooms where I could sense that my opinion was just not valued"

Elizabeth Banks
Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty

Elizabeth Banks is speaking candidly about overcoming obstacles as a woman in Hollywood.

While chatting with PEOPLE to promote her partnership with Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker and their new First Women campaign, the 46-year-old multi-hyphenate star says the biggest challenge she has overcome is "people's low expectations."

"I love jumping over that low bar," the Pitch Perfect star says laughing. "It is always exciting."

"I've been in a few rooms where I could sense that my opinion was just not valued," Banks continues. "And so really, what I spent my time doing, is finding those opportunities and creating those opportunities and those rooms where my voice matters.

"It's not always easy, but when it is accomplished is when I feel the most proud."

Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks. Rachel Murray/Getty

For Banks — who has directed, starred in, produced and wrote various projects over the span of her illustrious career — her achievements haven't always been acknowledged by her colleagues, despite her years of experience.

"Sometimes you end up in situations where you just know it doesn't feel right and you're not supported," she says. "And it's really best to just be able to say no, when you can."

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But, as Banks notes, being able to say no doesn't always come easy. "Being able to say no is actually something women have a hard time doing too," she says. "I think our culture creates a real idea that we have to always be pleasing other people."

The Charlies Angels director says she has worked on that, adding, "I've been trying to be better in the last few years about saying no to the people and the opportunities that I don't feel really have my best interests at heart ... and I'm really actually trying to put myself first in my career."

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Banks recently teamed up with Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker for their new campaign, which finds The Hunger Games actress working alongside a slew of other famous and empowering women — including Halle Berry, Katie Couric and Billie Jean King — to create a more equitable future.

In collaboration with the ERA Coalition and its Fund for Women's Equality (IFundWomen), the series of famous faces issued an open letter in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal about celebrating boundary-breaking moments and creating more in the future. Through the program, 15 women-owned businesses will be selected to receive a $10,000 grant alongside a one-year Annual Coaching Membership on IFundWomen.

"I love the idea of celebrating women's accomplishments, especially in such a challenging year," Banks tells PEOPLE. "I think to be ending the end of 2020 talking about the good things that have happened and being grateful for some of the amazing things that 2020 brought, despite all of the other terrible things that have happened this year, is a nice way to end the year in gratitude and celebration."

Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks/ twitter

And Banks says that this partnership is "all about equality of opportunity for women," which is so important to her.

"We talk a lot about all the amazing strides that women are making — and they are incredible — but it's nearly 2021 and women, they're not on equal footing in terms of economic power and economic opportunity," she shares. "And I think that's what's so great about this particular campaign, because the IFundWomen initiative is really about giving more opportunities to women with financial backing to achieve their goals."

She adds: "We can't just talk about how great ladies are, we got to put our money where our mouth is. We have to give women more economic power in our society."

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