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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Pop! That’s the sound of a baby bubble bursting as I slowly and quietly emerge into the ‘real’ world. For the past 8 months I have been (almost) entirely focused on my children and immersed in that wonderful yet exhausting, lonely, terrifying mundane bubble that is the daily lot of the full time mum. I’ll be honest…. I’ve loved it even though I’ve rarely left the square mile I live in, even though I’ve worn the same pair of jeans nearly every day (that’s actually a lie – it was a hot summer, I wore shorts for a good 4 months). I can tick every stereotype: vomit covered cardi…. tick; sleep deprived walk into a lamppost…tick; umpteenth conversation about “why doesn’t my baby sleep for more than 20 mins am I doing it all wrong?”…. tick; but in truth I’ve had a really lovely time hanging out with my baby and little boy in the sunshine (thanks UK for that freakish good summer during my maternity leave that was a definite bonus.) Now though, it’s time to get back to work. I haven’t entirely forgotten about my PhD – I’ve continued to read articles and theory when I can and even managed to carry out the odd interview. It is HARD with 2 little ones and I can’t fully carry on with it until I’ve got some childcare but I’m looking forward to getting back into it – because it needs to get done. It won’t be perfect, I’m not looking to change the world with this research but I have loved my topic and felt very honoured to have gone on the journey it has taken me on – but now I owe it to the women I’ve spoken to to get it written up.

SO to kick-start I’m presenting snippets from my research as part of the Media Futures Research Centre seminar series at Bath Spa University on October the 31st. My understanding is that it’s an open event. My title is “Motherhood is the antithesis of creativity”: Conflicting public policies and the clash between ideal creative workers and ideal parents” – you can link to the webpage which contains the abstract and further information here. I’m hopeful that I’ll get a good turnout of both sexes. The focus is on policy, using the experience of mothers working in the creative media industries but looking at a key clash in political discourse that will, I argue have significant implications for both men and women. I’m really excited to meet with the film and media department at Bath Spa – they’re doing some fantastic research including the recent release of this book ‘Cultural Work and Higher Education’ edited by Dan Ashton and Catriona Noonan.

Why i'm a bit distracted at the mo....

Some people never learn! I’ll still try and post things up but in the meantime if there are any guest bloggers out there please do contact me!

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 Monday (12.11.12) I attended a debate hosted at BAFTA on Sexism in the UK’s TV industry. The debate was (I assume) created in response to claims made across various platforms during the recent ‘Savile’ crisis that the culture of sexism / sexual harassment that had existed during the 70s & 80s have improved today. This post is my report and thoughts on the points made during that debate. Please note I am not making any comments on the Savile investigation into allegations of child abuse, which are a phenomenal criminal offence that should be handled by the professional police authorities and legal services. My interest in this subject is on how the dialogue about sexism, sexual discrimination and harassment within the TV sector that has emerged as one narratives of this story was treated within this debate.

 The story on Jimmy Savile’s alleged sexual abuse broke in early October this year and it was during this early stage of events unfolding that prominent media personalities including Radio DJ Liz Kershaw TV / Radio presenter Sandi Toksvig revealed their personal experiences of sexual harassment within the sector during the 70s and 80s. The media reported and spoke about a culture of silence and fear on speaking out against instances of sexual harassment that existed in the 1980s TV sector. A question that emerged as a result of that discussion was ‘could this happen today?’  Read the rest of this entry »

Dear all I’ve been somewhat off the radar recently but please read below this guest blog by Sofia Rasmussen. If anyone has any comments or questions then do post a message and i’ll pass them on.

The gender gap is old news these days…unless you are a mother in the UK looking for a way to support your new child and yourself. In order to compete with men in the current UK job climate, women need to have even more experience and education, which means that many women complete graduate school while working to mitigate student debt and support their families.

A major shift in habit from the 1950s, the UK now has a strong percentage of women in higher education. In fact, the UK has more women than men entering college and receiving degrees, a habit that is being mimicked in other countries, as well. But these numbers start to falter when it comes to wages and employment. The gender gap in education may be decreasing, but the workplace still needs some work in this regard. The UK ranks behind countries, such as the Philippines when it comes to women in the workplace.

The recent seasons of unemployment are not helping the problem, and the burden for recent mothers is even heavier. After all, what is a mother with a newborn child supposed to do? Parents are entitled to benefits, of course, to the tune of around 20 pounds a week for a first child and a mish-mash of other benefits, such as free dental care, as well as statutory maternity pay, which can last as long as 39 consecutive weeks. But maternity can cause problems later, when mothers start looking for work after absence.

In the super-competitive UK job climate, positions often go to those with the highest education and the greatest level of experience. This encourages many mothers to take advantage of the female-friendly higher education system in Britain…until they have to deal with the costs. Spending so much time away from their child (or children) is often not a possibility. Even if a mother is willing to try, the costs in babysitting can sap funds, which often translates into high student debt. So mothers have to sit, using up their benefits and looking at a job market where they won’t have a chance compared to higher-educated competitors.

Enter online education. The benefits of graduate programs online offer a much-needed break for mothers anxious to improve their prospects before heading back into the job market. Location is no longer a problem when taking classes that are flexible, depending on individual schedules.

The quality of education remains a problem for many programs; however, prestigious options, particularly online offerings provided by traditional brick & mortar institutions are counteracting these issues. Not only do online degrees afforded by these programs automatically carry weight on resumes, but the quality of the lecturers is often topnotch. Additionally, innumerable educations firms are entering the market, providing IT consulting, software, and solutions to the longstanding higher education institutions.

Of course, online education is far from a perfect system, and the wage gap in Britain is not doing mothers any favors. But the chance for women to find much-needed jobs while taking care of their children is increasing, and that is a good thing.

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.

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:

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.

Last Friday I attended a half day conference ‘Media and Mother’s matters’ hosted by Dr Oluyinka Esan at Winchester University. I have to admit, I was a bit grudging about this conference. The thought of scrabbling /begging to find an extra day’s childcare for Freddy to attend what I thought might turn into a group rant about how bad TV was for young minds did not seem like my number one priority (sorry Oluyinka). But I was completely wrong. The conference included fantastic presentations by among others the legendary Professor Dorothy Hobson whose keynote speech covered the entry of mothers into the workplace, the link between the economy and policy on mothers in the UK, the representation of mothers and mothering on UK soap operas including the audience reaction to the Kat / Ronnie cot death storyline in EastEnders were outrage from real mothers on the inappropriateness of the story caused production to rethink and rewrite. She also spoke about the criticism faced by working media mothers including foreign correspondent Alex Crawford who has been singled out as a war reporter with children when she makes the point that she is surrounded by men in war-torn areas who also have kids but do not receive the level of condemnation that she is subject to. Hobson spoke of the normative constructions of motherhood that have become embedded in our society today and the lack of realistic portrayals of mothering on our screens. She celebrated the Channel Four documentary ‘One Born Every Minute’ for it’s realistic portrayal of both the ordinary and miraculous reality of childbirth.

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From a fellow blogger ‘Sound Women’:


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