I went to the UK Broadcast Video Expo on the 17th Feb to see a seminar titled ‘Women in TV: 35 up? Huge numbers of women exit the industry at age 35. What can we do to stop the talent drain? To read a report of the event and my thoughts please click on the link below.

 

The seminar space at the expo was packed out with delegates crowding around the sides to listen to the discussion. It was clear from the q&a session that this subject arouses a lot of passion amongst those currently working in or trying to get back in to the industry. Kate O’Conner, Executive Director and Deputy CEO of Skillset kicked off the seminar by explaining the statistics from Skillset’s census of the creative media industries which revealed that a significant number of women had left the TV industry between 2006-2009 and of those that did work in the industry they were in general younger (under 35), more qualified and yet paid less than men. The full Skillset statistics relating to women in the industry can be accessed here.

Lisa Campbell; Editor of Broadcast Magazine and Kate Elliott; Equality Officer at Bectu spoke about other research carried out by both organisations which revealed more of the anecdotal frustrations felt by women working in the TV industry. The main issue centred on the struggle to combine a career in TV with raising a family. One of the key demands from women working in the industry that came out of the research was a call for more flexibility and openness from executives to women working from home, job shares, returning to work after taking a gap to raise a family. Kate Kinninmont from Women in Film and TV gave her personal insight into working in the industry and her own sadness that many of the issues she fought against as a mother working in TV in the 80s were still being felt by women today

Questions from the audience included pleas for how to return to the industry after a sustained gap due to raising a family, should women be open about their children when applying for jobs, what training and support is available specifically to women who wish to return to work. There was a positive example of a TV employer who had agreed to flexible working conditions to a female Producer/Director who wished to work from home, however the overall sense from women in the audience was that their needs were not being met by the industry and that there is still no consensus of feeling that an unbalanced creative workforce is a bad thing for all, not just the women who are directly affected. What is encouraging is that key industry bodies like Skillset, Bectu, Pact are starting to take note of and respond to the issue. In addition, stories in the media such as the recent Miriam O’Reilly court case has highlighted some of the gender issues in the industry. Skillset and WFTV have recently launched a mentoring scheme to support women in the industry, further research has been pledged (including this PHD). What I can add at present is that the issue is complex and linked to a number of different historical, cultural, technological and social factors, all of which contribute to what could potentially by a very exciting time of change for women in TV.

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