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Conferences are a great way to get away from the computer screen, share ideas, thoughts on research and catch up with other academics from related fields so I felt very honoured to have a paper accepted as part of a panel presentation on the 2nd ‘Doing Women’s Film and Television History’ conference organised by a committee of academics from the Women’s Film and Television History Network (click on link to take you straight to their site).

The purpose of this conference is to provide a space for academics, activists and industry professionals to consider the specific contribution of women to film and television. Given that women have been significantly contributing to film and television for over a hundred years, it is perhaps a little depressing that this is only the second year that the conference has been running but here’s hoping that its scope and status continues to develop into the future.

I’ve attached the conference schedule so you can see the range of papers included and the names of all the contributors. My paper was part of a panel presentation alongside Dr Bridget Conor and PhD candidate Natalie Wreyford, both from Kings College London (click on links to go to their individual staff pages for bios etc) under the title Forget the female, take that away from my job title, I’m a writer and I expect to be treated the same’: Challenging myths of participation in creative work.

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Last Friday I presented at the OCR A level Media Conference for A Level Media Studies teachers. http://ocrmediaconference2012.weebly.com/index.html

My presentation was in collaboration with Dr Kim Allen a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE), London Metropolitan University. Kim’s research focuses on young people’s career aspirations and transitions, and the role of social class and gender in shaping these; and issues of exclusion, equality and diversity in the creative industries.  Together, we presented aspects from both our research agendas that linked to the gender gap amongst creative media professionals in the UK. I introduced the background to my PhD project including the Skillset statistics and reports on gendered employment patterns in the industry and some findings from my qualitative interviews with female creative workers on attitudes towards motherhood and employment within the industry. Kim presented her findings from a research project conducted in 2009- 2010 for the Equality Challenge Unit on equality issues in higher education work placements in the creative sector (with Jocey Quinn, Sumi Hollingworth and Anthea Rose). This project carried out a series of in-depth interviews with students in Higher Education who had undertaken work placements in the creative industries and Kim presented some of the findings from the interviews with female students aged 19-25 who had undertaken work experience placements in the TV, Film, Advertising, Design and Photography sectors. You can read up about the findings from this project here.

The purpose of our presentation was to show how the findings from our research suggest that there is a serious gender gap developing in the creative industries, one that it would appear is being felt by a younger generation, what Kim described as ‘creative workers in the making’ (term taken from Dr Daniel Ashton) which would suggest a continuing trend, and get feedback from A Level teachers on how this might affect their students. We talked about how this trend could have major repercussions, for a sector that has been identified as a growth industry, one that has been identified by politicians as potentially providing a central role in the UK recovery from the current recession. Yet if as our research suggests certain groups of workers continue to be alienated, excluded from career progression or forced to leave and if this becomes a growing trend, how does that impact on this forecast? And we asked what are the barriers or conditions of the industry that are causing this widening gap in the first place?

If I were to start writing the answers to those questions now, I’m be writing out my entire PhD (you don’t want me to do that). What both Kim and I hoped to gain from this session was the feedback and thoughts from Higher Education providers on how they felt this would impact on their students. We wanted to know what career advice they would give, particularly to their female students on jobs in the creative industries, given the findings from our research. We wanted to know what relationships currently existed between the industry and education providers, whether they felt they had the right resources to realistically advise and support their students and where they felt were the most important areas for improvement.

Unfortunately, we had very little in attendance. Those that did attend provided some excellent feedback on their own experiences of working within the industry and the areas of concern / questions posed to them by parents on opportunities for their children who were studying the media and many thanks to those that did attend for their feedback. But there was depressingly little input to go on. When I did my masters at the LSE, I co-organised a seminar on women and journalism with Charlie Beckett Director of media thinktank Polis, chaired by Samira Ahmed and featuring presentations by Professor Ros Gill and Dr Nadja Al-Ali. When planning that seminar, I was advised by a female MD of a very successful independent production company (who I shall not be naming) “If you stick the word ‘women’ in your title you’ll more than half your audience”. Why? Both Kim and I debated the title of our presentation, but we both felt that the issue was one that should be recognised as having an impact on everyone. We talked about the potential economic impact of this trend in a global industry and its affect on everyone, but it still seemed to be understood by some attendees as a ‘woman’s’ issue.

I would still really appreciate feedback from A Level teachers on this research. Kim and I included a series of questions in our presentation which can be accessed here Allen&Dent 2012_Women and careers in the media presentation so if anyone who attended the conference but didn’t make the talk would like to get in touch with me please do so: Tamsyn@cemp.ac.uk.

I will be conducting further interviews later on this year and am planning to present some of my findings in early 2013. Also Kim and I are hoping to hold this presentation again so watch this space for more information.

The US based Centre for the Study of Women in Television & Film has revealed it’s latest report on the number of women employed in TV both in front of and behind the camera. The latest ‘Boxed In’ report  shows that the figures of female employment in the US TV industries is down from previous years and that this has a direct impact on the numbers of women represented onscreen. The percentage of women writers on broadcast programmes dropped from 29% in 2009-2010 to 15% in 2010-2011. The number of women directors has also dropped from  16% in 2009-2010 to 11% in 2010-201. The report states that “programs with at least one woman creator or writer featured more female characters than programs with no women creators or writers.”

 

This study mirrors a similar picture here in the UK. Statistics produced by Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Creative Media Industries show that around 5000 women left the TV industry between 2006 – 2009. The research shows that women are significantly under-represented over the age of 35 across the industry and that of those that do work in the industry they are on average paid less, more qualified, and less likely to have children than their male counterparts. Click here to see the full report.

 

What’s going on? Is this a trend that’s specific to the TV industries or are we seeing a pattern that could potentially develop across all sectors? Are the creative industries leading the way in exposing the precarious position of female employers and what are the reasons behind them? I suspect that it has a lot to do with the time and context of the world that we are living in today. The recent financial crisis has exposed a lot of the imbalances that were covered up or silenced in the first 8 years of the 21st century. We do not yet have a system in place in the UK or the US that robustly supports female employees. What needs to be examined is what are the implications of this and what will be lost if one half of society are denied access to the working world?

Click this link to go to The World UNPLUGGED research blog. This research was carried out with just under 1,000 university students from 10 different countries including Chile, China, the UK, Lebanon, the US and Uganda. The project asked students to abstain from using all media for one day. After their 24 hour media abstinence, participants were then asked to report their response to the project including successes and failures. Their responses were aggregated to produce a document of half a million words which described their feelings to the task.

The results reveal how young people now access, use, and define media. It opens up a new understanding of what we define as ‘news’ and provides detailed recommendations for the Students themselves, Universities, Entrepreneurs and Journalist. It is a reminder of how the media plays such a pervasive role in our lives. Alas their was no gender analysis, although demographics of those that took part show that 66.3% of respondents were women and 0.2% transgender. However this is a useful and insightful piece of research.

The US based Geena Davis Institute on Gender has just released research on how women and girls are portrayed in film. It has some depressing stats on women working in production in the US as well. Click to access the reports.Geena Davis Institue on Gender Media research webpage

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