Lights, Camera, Action: Addressing Gender Inequality

by Stephanie Dale

The Problem:

The gender imbalance across industries is widely recognised. To establish themselves, women have the hard task of navigating the film industry. The field comes across as liberal, innovative, and even magical. But, unfortunately, gender inequality looms.

In Mslexia, Debbie Taylor explains the contrasting explanations assigned to each gender when they perform badly at school. When a boy does badly it is because he needs to settle down or concentrate, but when a girl does badly she is assumed to be less intelligent. If a boy does well he is clever, whilst for girls it is a result of hard work. This double standard ‘promotes self-confidence and high self-esteem among the boys…and undermines it in the girls’. As a society, we have established an environment where women are undermined and lose confidence.

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The Facts:

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The BFI’s Filmography page reveals the gender imbalance in the industry. As the graph shows, only 25% of women make up the cast and crew in a British feature film compared with 68% of men in the same roles, and 6% unresolved. Of the 10,941 Director credits, 509 (4.65%) were female whilst of the 6,608 Director of Photography credits, 159 (2.41%) were female. These figures may seem like they are from another era but they have been extracted from December 2018. More work needs to be done.

Recommendations:

At ASFF in November 2018, Sara Putt, Deputy Chair of Women in Film & TV, led a panel discussion on ‘Rethinking Roles: Women in Industry’. With Loran Dunn and Christiana Ebohon-Green, she highlighted three areas that need improvement:

  • Working Hours:

With film crews working  between 12 and 13 hours a day, it has become an unsustainable way of working. It is especially challenging for families, mothers, and carers. Films could be made within school hours or women could job-share and split the shifts.

  • Schemes:

A scheme like BAFTA Elevate provides a platform for people from underrepresented groups to progress in their careers. Alternatively, using the creative industry tax relief could have benefits. To qualify for this tax relief, films should be required to fulfil the ‘diversity’ criteria and this should include gender.

  • Sets:

Sets need to be more diverse; as they stand, they are mostly male, white, and middle class. Including more women would mean there are more female role models and it would be a step towards diversity. The industry needs to be as conscious of its responsibilities as possible.

Zoe Lister-Jone’s film, Band Aid (2017), was created with an all female crew. In an interview with Vulture, Lister-Jones explains how she had personally felt the underrepresentation of females in crews and so made hers more inclusive. She knew that they would have to hire women without “significantly strong résumés”. Band Aid has set the example.

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The landscape needs altering. If these recommendations were to become a reality then I think we would be on the brink of real change. These small modifications can shift a culture, and it needs to happen now. 

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