In spite of all the criticism Hollywood has faced recently for its awful female-to-male director ratio, women are still being widely discriminated against in the film industry. Maybe, being a generally optimistic person, you might be inclined to think that things are a little more equal outside of the US. What about in the UK? Are female directors making more progress in the more culturally enlightened quadrants of the world? Nope, not really.
A recent study conducted by Directors UK (which, according to the Telegraph, represents 5,000 radio and television broadcasters) had some dismal news for the state of gender equality in the entertainment industry: a mere eight percent of television drama directors last year were women. Popular shows like Doctor Who and Poirot (produced by the BBC and ITV, respectively) were directed solely by men, despite the fact that women were directing Doctor Who episodes five years ago.
The total absence of female directors on such shows is particularly egregious, the Telegraph notes, because television, unlike film, uses rotating casts of directors over the course of a season. That the number of female directors was lowest at the BBC and ITV, two of the UK’s biggest broadcasters, merely illustrates how troubling the discrepancy between the advancement of men and women in the entertainment industry truly is. According to Kate Kinninmont, chief executive of the UK’s Women in Film and TV, more women than men are actually entering the lower ranks of the TV industry, but, through a combination of institutional sexism and the perception that men are more willing to peacock about even their most mundane accomplishments, women aren’t getting promoted to the director’s chair.
Moreover, according to anecdotal evidence gathered in the study, women more often faced questions about their family commitments than their male counterparts, and were more often offered work only on dramas about children or families. ITV’s Wild at Heart director and study group chair Beryl Richards added that some employers even question whether prospective female directors had “the authority to lead a largely male crew, or the technical knowledge.”
Industry insiders have offered some all-too-familiar explanations for this absence of female directors: women aren’t assertive enough to negotiate or trumpet their own achievements, unlike their sometimes less-qualified yet more confident male counterparts. One of the reasons, though, that men in the industry are so confident is because they exist in an industry built by men, and have never had any reason to believe that they’d miss out on opportunities because of their gender.
That’s the thing about institutionalized sexism: it’s woven into the fabric of an industry, so much so that people — men and women — start believing that certain jobs are for women while other jobs are for men, that men are intrinsically suited to sit behind a camera or build a bridge, while women are best left to manage a home or become nurses. Which is bullshit, of course, but bullshit just so happens to be a hard thing to wash away, especially when it’s part of someone’s worldview.
Sexist TV laid bare: women get no credit [Telegraph]
<small><em>Image via <a href="http://www.apimages.com/">AP</a>, Max Nash</em></small>