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Dear all

I wanted to alert you to a training / careers development session that I contributed to as part of the Underwire Film Festival in November 2012. Underwire is a London-based shorts film festival founded in 2010 by Gemma Mitchell and Gabriella Apicella as a platform to promote, inspire and support women working in the film industry. Alongside the film screenings are debates, discussions plus training and networking opportunities. They are supported by a whole host of industry partners and hold touring and training events across the UK so they are well worth checking out!

The training session I took part in was co-produced with Olivia Bellas, a Cultural Consultant and Director of Creative Consultancy Company The Original Ranch. Olivia and I both share a passion for working in the creative industries and the various opportunities that this sector can provide however a similar frustration with the bureaucratic minefield and working conditions that face many struggling to manage and build a successful career. We wanted to produce a session that would be both informative – providing practical realities of how to manage and keep afloat in this industry, thinking about developing cross-sector skills, managing contacts, building an online presence that represents your experience, dealing with finances, benefits and rights etc etc – all that nitty gritty stuff AND empowering – encouraging particularly women to continue to build, manage and succeed in the creative sector. My personal motivation was to talk about some of the challenges that particularly face women working in the creative sector – issues around pay & promotion, managing a freelance career and the impact of motherhood on the work/life balance – and encourage women to make the working conditions of the industry work for them, ensuring that they can remain and continue to contribute to the sector…..

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Last night I attended a UK screening of Miss Representation Jennifer Siebel Newsom‘s documentary that looks at how the US media portrays women and young girls. This event was hosted by Women in Film and TV and Amnesty International UK.

Just watch the trailer and you’ll get a taste of the heart-lurching-lump-in-your-throat feeling that this film evokes. The opening still displays a quote from Alice Walker “The most common way that people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any”. This is followed by a montage of sexualised, violent and demeaning images of women cut between quotes from contributors about the media’s treatment and representation of women and the impact on society. From the start, you know that this is a campaigning film, designed to provoke its audience into action.

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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?

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.

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Miriam O’Reilly has won a landmark tribunal against the BBC for ageism in the UK visual media. As a researcher specialising in gender and the media the tribunal could not be a more timely case study. I would like to state that I am not able to comment on the tribunal’s decision or on the BBC’s conduct. I am not a media professional and therefore not in a position to do so. what I find interesting in this case is how the application of gender theory to the final court settlement (which upheld a claim of age discrimination over sex discrimination) offers interesting insight to the story.

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Every 2 years Skillset, the Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the UK’s Creative Media Industries holds a national census of those working in the UK’s CMI industries. The 2009 statistics showed that the industry figures had fallen by 10% since the previous census. Strikingly, the majority of those leaving the industry were women. When converted into real numbers 5000 women had left the industry compared to 750 men. The vast number of those leaving were in the over 35 age category.

The results relating to the remaining industry revealed that overall in the CMI women are more qualified and paid less. They are also less likely to occupy the main creative jobs including writers, directors and producers and are instead found in hair/make-up, production, costume etc.

Click here to read more about the gender gap in the industry and get access to more reports and charts to outline the situatio.

Why is this bad?

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