A new report from We Are Doc Women (WADW) has highlighted the lack of opportunity for women directors in factual TV.
We Are Doc Women is a peer support group for women Directors, Producers, Assistant Producers and Executive Producers working in factual television in the UK.
The survey was run because while employers with more than 250 employees have a statutory requirement to report on their gender pay gaps, much of the TV industry is composed of companies with under 250 employees and with much of the workforce freelancers.
The survey covered nearly 700 respondents working in editorial roles within the factual television industry. 191 people identifying as men and 495 people identifying as women completed it with findings weighted to make the groups directly comparable.
It found that women are strongly under-represented at Director level, and for the women that do reach directing, it takes longer for them than for their male counterparts.
The survey found that the average time to reach director level from starting in the industry was seven years but only 38 of every 100 women will be directing in seven years, compared to 55 of every 100 men.
Even after getting a first directing credit, women as less likely than men to be offered subsequent directing roles. After their first Director credit, nearly three times more women than men had yet to be offered a second directing role.
After women become Directors, 48% found they are still regularly (at least half the time) being offered non-directing roles versus just 31% of men. Women repeatedly said they were encouraged to do producing roles rather than directing.
The survey points to an industry perception that men are directors and women are producers. Or as one respondent put it, “Men get cameras, women get clipboards.”
The report found that men are given the chance to shoot earlier, with 40% being offered a shooting role at Researcher level compared to 23% of women. Nearly three times more women than men are always asked to provide filming examples before being offered a shooting role.
The survey also highlighted a strong feeling that the Producer role should be more highly valued by the industry.
Many respondents thought that Producers and Directors with similar years’ experience should be paid the same as each other on productions. However some disagreed, saying that Director was the more senior position and therefore should be better paid.
As one respondent argued: “This is a highly gendered situation that has been allowed to go on far too long. Women are completely sick of being offered to produce men’s films, do all the emotional labour and all the producing, and walk away with minimal credit AND not having increased their chances of getting a directing credit.”
The survey also looked at barriers in the factual TV industry for those not from a white and privileged background. Nearly a third of respondents (29%) went to a fee-paying school compared to only 7% of the UK population.
“As a woman of colour, it’s even harder, I constantly find that my 15 years of experience isn’t enough, there’s still an assumption that I’m incapable or would need extra support when that is just not the case at all,” said one Development Producer.
“Many people I know are subsidised by inheritance, or other family money, or in kind support which creates a deeply imbalanced playing field,” said one female Executive Producer.
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