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New report shows shockingly low numbers of women at the top of the film industry. What are your views and experiences?

(49 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 23-Jul-14 12:53:49


A new report by writer and producer Stephen Follows has been doing the rounds in the press and on social media today.

Follows analysed data on the film crews attached to the 100 best-grossing movies in each year from 1994 to 2013 (so around 2000 films in all) and found that:

across all the data, female crew members made up just 22.6%;
women were best represented in areas such as costume/wardrobe, casting and make-up (69%, 67% and 57% respectively); at the other end of the scale, they made up just 5% of camera operators;
in key creative roles such as producers (19.7%), editors (13.7%) and writers (10.9%) they were very under-represented; and
just 5% of directors, 2% of composers and 1% of cinematographers are women.

Anecdotal evidence chats in the office suggest that lots of women leave senior jobs in related industries - particularly the TV industry - after having children. So we thought we'd throw it open to you.

Have you worked in the film or TV industries? What's your impression of them as places for women to work, before or after having children? Did you leave a job or a promising career because you felt it was impossible to get ahead - or was your experience different?

And do you think it matters that women are under-represented in key creative roles in films? What do you think the explanation is for women being better represented in departments like costume and casting?

As ever, we'd love to know what you think.

escape Wed 23-Jul-14 13:31:04

I attended the Children's Media Conference the other week. It was very well attended/sponsored by people from the TV industry, CBBC, Cbeebies, Nickleodeon, Citv, Disney etc.
There were VERY many women there, if not even majoritively. I can't comment on the film industry but it seems the Beeb in particular has many women in senior positions within it's Kids department. A lot of the independent representatives too were women. Most people giving insight seminars from the top research companies were women too.
Due to the nature of the subject, i transpired that many of said women who were panellists /speakers were also Mothers.
Just my two penneth from a recent experience.

settingsitting Wed 23-Jul-14 14:08:50

They are very underrepresented.
I only know about one part of it all, but tbh, the part I do know, the intake [through women applying in the first place for uni places] is only about 14%.
Again, as far as I know, the young women just dont and are not interested in it as a profession, even though there are no barriers to women applying.
[I think it still has very much a science angle to it, and still even in this day and age, women, for whatever reason, shy away from IT and Maths].
As I say though, I only know detail of one aspect of the Film Industry.

settingsitting Wed 23-Jul-14 14:17:10

Now my children are older, and in diverse industries, I can see just how concentrated women still are in certain industries and not in others.
tbh, nothing seems to have changed since 30 years ago.

And I think that the "glass ceiling" phrase should be stopped too. That in itself is a very restrictive take on things.

Extellymama Wed 23-Jul-14 15:43:08

I worked in telly for a LONG time and had a senior production job when I got pregnant. I was told I couldn't work part time after maternity leave. Fair enough you might say - it's a job that's very hard to do part time (sort of true) - yet a bloke at the same level was allowed to work part time so he could do childcare on a Friday. How does that work then?

Where I worked, despite the fact that generally in production teams it was pretty much 50/50 in terms of men/women (possibly slightly more women), the higher you got, the more those figures changed. So (and this was a big company with well over 100 employees) probably three or four "senior" women and at least four times that number senior men. And guess what? NONE of the senior women had kids. There were a few mums in the office - all in admin. There were a couple of people who worked part time - almost all in admin.

Sadly I sort of get it - it's not a 9-5 job and can change according to what you are working on, where you are making the show, where you are in the production schedule etc etc. It's very hard to plan childcare around that (even with a supportive OH who can work more flexibly to do half the childcare) If you are freelance (as most of us were) it's even harder because you don't always need the childcare but to keep the option open you have to pay for it even when you're not working. And yes, you need to be able to do your job and if that means staying in an edit suite til 3am (which I did many times) then that's what you have to do. Which doesn't work so well in terms of picking up kids from childminders or school.

Which is why - and almost all my friends with kids (and husbands or partners who couldn't work flexibly or part time) left the industry.

limecordial Wed 23-Jul-14 15:55:29

Pretty much my experience too extellymama

It's a very full time job and while you can do the background stuff or development part time production is far more difficult. There's often very little flexibility. And if you are fairly senior you are on call pretty much all the time.

I had a staff job for a TV company so didn't have to worry about the freelance childcare thing. But I did face the choice of keep high powered job, get nanny, never see kids (and yes that's what it would have meant - I did the job ten years before kids came along). Or quit.

After taking a long time TTC the not seeing my kids bit wasn't something I was prepared to do (other people made different choices - their lives, their prerogative, I was doing what was right for me and my family not anyone else)

So I walked too. Along with most of my female mum mates. And all the men I was friendly with are still there - kids or no.

(And yes - I realise that in a lot of careers the hours mean that if you have kids either you have to have full time childcare or one partner has to sacrifice their career for the sake of the other. But IMHO telly is a really difficult place to succeed AND be a mum and in my experience the powers that be don't seem very upset that this is the case)

limecordial Wed 23-Jul-14 15:56:45

Oh and I saw a LOT of "that woman is really good but she has kids so let's take the one without because she has no ties" stuff when people were crewing up productions.

weegiemum Wed 23-Jul-14 15:59:25

This is very interesting, my dd1 (14) hopes to work as a film/theatre designer. She works at it in amateur theate and is applying to the Scottish Conservatoire next year for their technical apprenticeship.

She so wants to work in this field, she's really talented in Art and also Design and Technology.

settingsitting Wed 23-Jul-14 16:04:11

Can I ask a question extelly and limecordial.
Those women who stayed on who dont have children, what happens to them?
Do they make any difference to the status quo at all?

When I left the industry I was in [not telly or film], the back end of the 80's, there were a whole bunch of women coming on behind me.
They must be in their very early 40's now.

I assumed that things would have changed at the top of most things by now, but I cannot see any difference tbh.

weatherall Wed 23-Jul-14 16:06:37

I know a female tv presenter with a school aged child.

She says she'd never have gone into that industry if she had known how incompatible it was with children.

She is dependent on her parents babysitting for extended periods whilst she is away filming.

limecordial Wed 23-Jul-14 16:16:12

Hi setting - yes, the ones who didn't have kids are (mainly) still there. But they were a minority as most of us did want families at some point.

Have to say when I was at school no one (least of all the "careers" officer) ever factored in career plus family. This is not to take away anyone's right to do whatever they want to do. But I can honestly I never even thought about whether the path I had chosen might be compatible with having children until I got to the stage of having them. Had I thought about it I may well have chosen something completely different. It's hard enough to get back to work in a new job after having kids - when you have to get back to work in an entirely new career (when you only have experience of something else) it's a bloody nightmare. I wish someone had warned me

settingsitting Wed 23-Jul-14 16:19:58

This thread is going to end up putting more women off tv jobs and film jobs!

limecordial Wed 23-Jul-14 16:21:59

This is true!!

Listen I absolutely loved it when I was in my 20s - was everything I ever wanted to do. But I stopped loving it a long time ago and if I had my time over again would - without question - do something else.

But saying that - there most be some companies who are better than the ones I worked for. So is not all doom and gloom honest

settingsitting Wed 23-Jul-14 16:27:25

I should perhaps mention that the part of the film industry I was talking about is a sort of 9 - 5 job.
But it is nearer 8 - 6 plus long commutes for most, as that area is concentrated around central London, so just about everyone has long travel times to factor in. [But this is true of a lot of London workers]

limecordial Wed 23-Jul-14 16:35:21

It certainly is

But I think the jobs the report is talking about is the "glam" ones - producers, directors, senior roles of one sort or another - which by definition would mean longer hours.

Oh how they lied to us when they said we could have it all. (Yes we can - but at what price? They never mentioned the price)

settingsitting Wed 23-Jul-14 16:41:42

I am talking about one of the parts on the list. A slightly less glamourous part.

sinisterfish Wed 23-Jul-14 16:46:30

we have a technical college here for tv and film students, so hopefully that may signify a change.

it is really a job for boys though re technical jobs, the film industry seems to be run on who you know and who you have worked with in previous films. these are mostly men and boys. i don't think it's an easy industry to get into unless you have connections.

limecordial Wed 23-Jul-14 16:47:46

Old boys network - gotta love it (not - obv)

sinisterfish Wed 23-Jul-14 16:48:25

oh and the tech college (for kids 14+) seems to think there will be lots of jobs to fill in the future, so i doubt they would have got funded if it wasn't true.

Theincidental Wed 23-Jul-14 19:51:41

Too much travelling and time away working was the big issue post baby. You just can't do that kind of work unless you have a huge amount of family support for the mad childcare arrangements needed. Nothing is very fixed or regular and long periods away with a small child/baby were just not possible.

The day schedules were very long as well even when working locally.

I really miss it, but not the travelling so much!

Theincidental Wed 23-Jul-14 19:53:03

Oh and yes indeed to the old boys network for tech and the many many interns related to so and so...

VFXdad Wed 23-Jul-14 20:33:00

I work for a well known TV company in the design department. Most people here will see our work regularly.

Female representation in the team of designers ( excluding sport which is heavily male ) is very good. I'd say around 45%. And it's a very egalitarian environment. Gay people / cultures are well represented and quite open / out as nobody gives a monkeys beyond personality.

Visual Effects is different but I think possibly because it's highly technical and seems to attract people on the low autistic spectrum. I'd bet that most of the 3d artists spent their teenage years in their bedrooms in front of computers nursing mild social awkwardness iykwim . Everyone is a geek including the women.

But even so there are women in the VFX ranks, as artists in a minority but certainly dominating production.

We've had female head of departments, creative execs, and major execs in charge of our entire division ( this a multi billion pound company ) have been women more frequently than men. I think women are very well represented in senior positions.

Flexible working is fairly easy to organise if you have kids, and you can get unpaid 'family leave' if you so need in addition to normal holiday.

But there are certainly times when you simply have to finish the job. There are no "if's" or "but's" . It must be finished, and if that means you stay 19 hours for the next four days then that's what you do. I think film and advertising are worse.

VFXdad Wed 23-Jul-14 20:46:05

... Oh I'd add I did many years ago work as a runner for a small film company making pop videos.

I only got the job because my brother worked in the industry. And he only got the job because his friend did before him.... And he was working in the industry through his uncle !

My career was short lived as the two homosexual owners of the company took a shine to me and booted me out after I turned them down on their offer to bugger me.

mejon Wed 23-Jul-14 20:51:56

I worked in drama production for 15 years before having children. I was in a predominantly admin role and was freelance/self-employed for the majority of that time. I worked with a number of female producers and most managed to have families and work but did so as they had partners who were SAHDs or had nannies. I didn't consider returning to work in the industry after having children as the hours were long, work sometimes irregular and unless you're pretty high up (director/producer/DoP/PM etc.) eventhough the pay was good when the work was there, the salary didn't allow you to afford a nanny or whatever. Ex-colleagues I have who were on a similar level to myself (2nd ADs/location managers etc.) who have now started families have mostly retrained and are now working in 'proper' jobs.

KneesoftheBee Wed 23-Jul-14 20:52:46

I'd bet that most of the 3d artists spent their teenage years in their bedrooms in front of computers nursing mild social awkwardness iykwim .

^^this would almost exactly describe DS2 who is currently studying film & media production at University. However, his introvert personality is challenged by the amount of networking and "putting yourself out there" that you have to do in this industry.

There seems to be almost equal male / females on his course.

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