Just over 100 years ago the certification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted. This amendment prohibits denying citizens of the US the right to vote on the basis of gender. To commemorate this historic certification, Women’s Equality Day is observed annually on 26th August, both in the US and across the world, to promote awareness for gender inclusion, diversity and equity.
Despite this celebration and the fact that recent research from Mckinsey states that women are well represented in the media and entertainment sector, access to top roles remains elusive. Indeed, only 27% of C-suite roles are held by women. That said, the recent appointment by Sky of Prasanna Gopalakrishan to the position of Group Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is certainly a step towards instigating change and shifting the balance towards greater female representation at senior levels.
At a time when inclusion, diversity and equality underpin the core values of many organisations, several women who hold a variety of roles in the media and entertainment industry to find out their views; and what their companies are doing to unlock more opportunities to female professionals in the sector.
Tackling unconscious bias
Globally, just 18 per cent of girls in tertiary education are pursuing STEM studies — compared to 35 per cent of boys. The assumption that’s often made as the reason for this disparity is that girls are less interested in STEM subjects than boys. However, it’s more likely a lack of confidence in pursuing certain subjects due to perceptions of certain roles being male or female oriented. But this is an opportunity for female role models to provoke change.
Gabriella Watkins, Broadcast Technician, dock10, and recent winner of the RTS Coffey Award for Excellence in Technology says: “While our industry certainly has great women, as well as men, advocating for greater equality in STEM, I believe it’s really important for young women to be supported by role models of their own gender. They need women who understand their experiences and can inspire their growth. dock10 is a strong advocate for equality and inclusion in the broadcast industry, and as a STEM ambassador for the television facility, it’s a privilege to be able to lead by example and hopefully inspire more young girls to consider a career in STEM.”
Watkins acknowledges that while it’s true that technology and STEM fields are historically male-dominated, women can and should be involved, and it starts at an education level. “If we can give young girls and women the confidence to pursue their interests in STEM subjects from a young age, I’m sure we’ll see far more women in core-STEM occupations in the future.”
Many companies in the media and entertainment industry, and indeed the broader technology sector, are conscious that the onus is on them to address inequality. They are taking action to battle the imbalance by putting programmes and initiatives in place.
According to Alexandra Maier, Director, Global Marketing & Communications – Media Solutions, CGI, it’s clear that slowly but surely, more women are being appointed into leading positions in the broadcast and media sector. “There is however definitely still room for improvement, particularly with regard to increasing women’s representation in more technical roles, and at C-level,” she says. “One way we could mitigate this is by appointing more women to board positions. Diversity at board level can go a long way towards appealing to, and inspiring, potential candidates from varied backgrounds. Formal mentoring programmess that support women in the progression of their careers are another way to level up and create more equal opportunities.”
Alison Pavitt, Director of Sales and Marketing, Pebble agrees with Maier’s thoughts. “In terms of creating more opportunities for female professionals in the sector, I think it’s important for vendors to understand the benefits of advocating for female staff joining industry boards. This gives both the organisation and the individual great visibility, which in turn can encourage others. If you can see it, you can be it!
“Offering the option of remote working can be beneficial for those with commitments outside work. If not fully remote, as at Pebble, then at least the flexibility to work from home on occasion. Additionally, supporting the brilliant mentoring initiatives and schemes such as Rise, an advocacy membership group to support women from all backgrounds working in the broadcast technology sector. Pebble are beneficiaries of this initiative and two of our staff have been or are currently mentees.”
Understanding the value of gender diversity
Alison Doyle, Head of GRC & Sustainability and D&I Lead at Red Bee Media, believes that companies that prioritise equality across the business will benefit from the power that a diverse workforce brings to achieve successful business outcomes.
“Within Red Bee we recognise the need to actively drive behavioural and cognitive changes in all levels of the company to achieve gender parity, particularly in senior roles. The power of representation shouldn’t be underestimated, and gender equality in internal and external communication is important for creating a greater sense of belonging. While it also showcases potential career pathways for women, both in Red Bee and in the industry in general. If women don’t feel that they belong, or that their voices are not being heard, they will start looking elsewhere to further their careers.”
She continues: “At Red Bee we have created a tailored and targeted series of initiatives around recruitment, retention, career development and communication, for, and with, women, in order to drive change and increase gender equality. This includes a wide range of activities, from implementing gender-neutral language in recruitment and performance evaluations, internal showcasing of career paths exemplified by senior women in the company, sponsoring Rise – Women in broadcast; but overall, prioritising women as spokespersons for Red Bee, and much more. As many other companies in our industry, we have a long way to go, but we’re on the right trajectory and we have an ambitious agenda.”
Pavitt concludes: “I’ve been involved in the supply side of the industry since 1987, and what a ride it’s been! Sure, women have been outnumbered by men at every single event I’ve attended, but I’ve been lucky to work with some terrific, funny, driven people and have had some exceptional mentors along the way. I’d encourage anyone to embrace the challenges the industry offers. I’m seeing more and more engaged and talented women getting involved and rising through the ranks, and that’s got to be a good thing for everyone. This is an exceptionally welcoming and rewarding industry to work in, and greater gender diversity benefits to us all both personally and in our businesses.”
Carrie Wootten, Managing Director, Rise, adds “Although McKinsey reports that there is good gender parity across the media and entertainment industry, if you break the sector down, it is evidently clear that this parity does not exist within technical and engineering positions. There is a huge amount of work still to be done and especially around the intersectionality of gender and ethnicity.
“Opening up more opportunities for female professionals needs a multi-strand approach, which is how Rise, an advocacy membership group to support women from all backgrounds working in the broadcast technology sector has developed its suite of programmes of work. Critically, we need to invest in, inspire and educate young people about the sector and its career pathways. Currently young people are unaware of the dynamic and vibrant industry they could be entering and our Rise Up Academy is starting to address this.
“We of course also need to support, develop and retain the female talent already in the sector and ensure the C-Suite statistics change. This can be achieved through career development, gender pay gaps closing, transparent recruitment processes, robust maternity policies, mentoring programmes and a lot more.
“Unless these multiple programmes of work are undertaken across the sector the dial of change is going to continue to move at a slow pace.”
We’ve come a long way on gender equality since 1920, and there is clearly still quite some distance to go, but it’s encouraging to see so many organisations working to foster deeper inclusion, diversity and genuine equality in our industry.
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