The latest industry data, continued inequality and why has there been no change?
Written by Raising Films Consultant, Tamsyn Dent
August 2018 saw the release of Who’s Calling The Shots, the latest report from Directors UK (DUK) on gender inequality amongst screen directors in the UK television sector.
This follow up report to the organisation’s 2014 study on female directors in the UK uses the same method of analysing programme credits of UK-commissioned television programmes broadcast between 2013-2016. The stated aim of the research was to discover if any of the industry led diversity and inclusion initiatives had resulted in an increased the representation of female directors within the UK’s television market.
The results show they haven’t.
Their sample reveals an overall decrease of 2.86% in the percentage population of female-directed episodes during this period.
Directors UK’s findings mirror those reported by the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) investigation into women screenwriters in both UK television and film. Their research covered a decade of analysis into screenwriting credits across TV and film also reported no improvement in gender representation with significant declines in some areas.
The story of continued stagnation when it comes to gender representation within the screen industry is all too familiar. Thankfully, independent organisations like Directors UK and WGGB have taken on the responsibility of industry monitoring to expose the issue of workforce inequality however, this is not sustainable and there is a call for a centralised system.
The recently established monitoring system, Project Diamond managed by the industry-funded Creative Diversity Network has been criticised by both organisations for its inability to effectively measure the reality of creative labour both on and off screen with the WGGB joining BECTU and the NUJ’s boycott of the Project Diamond data.
Why this continued failure to progress?
The DUK report points to structural issues relating to HR employment practices within the sector and how factors like the unconscious bias of key decision makers as reasons behind the lack of progress. Their report also highlights how small-scale diversity initiatives targeted at individuals from under-represented groups such as mentoring/training schemes, despite having merit have not lead to systemic change.
This is a question that has been discussed in the wider academic discussion on creative labour with a distinction being made between ‘empowering interventions’ i.e. those aimed at the individual level in comparison to ‘transforming interventions’ aimed at changing the wider industry structures.
For background on this see the evidence review of workforce diversity in the UK screen sector produced by the CAMEo research institute at the University of Leicester, 2018.
This is not to criticise the value of targeted mentoring and training schemes, just to point out that they alone cannot deliver systemic change.
There is a shift from organisations like Directors UK, WGGB, BECTU, Equity and academic institutions including CAMEo towards recommendations for ‘transformative interventions’. Such recommendations include, robust monitoring of the industry including comprehensive data on the freelance/self-employed workforce, training on fair HR employment practices aimed at employees and leaders within the sector with an industry-adopted commitment to fair recruitment practices. Directors UK call for broadcasters to commit a percentage of their commissioning spend as a levy to fund access and development schemes for under-represented groups and broadcasting targets, set by Ofcom, on the diversity of those both on and off screen.
These recommendations reflect those proposed by Raising Films in our Raising Our Game Report (2017).
We went a step further calling for a robust framework of accountability in order to support workers’ rights given our awareness of the wider employment grievances that take place in an unbalanced and unregulated employment culture. We stand by our recommendations and welcome this shift from other institutions towards the need for structural reform.
These recommendations still require industry-wide adoption, which will not happen overnight, but here at Raising Films we will continue to campaign for transformative change.