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The Easy Way to Solve Gender Imbalance in Film and Television

Each year, San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film releases a “Celluloid Ceiling” report which shows female employment on the top 250 films of the previous year. This year’s numbers (released last week) are more of the same, with female employment hovering around the same percent for the last twenty years or so.

There’s something new in this year’s research we should all be looking at: how employment on shows varies when women are in charge.

Unlike previous years where data came from the top 250 films, this is based on the top 500 films — “top” meaning top grossing.)

On films with at least one female director, women comprised 32% of editors. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for 19% of editors.

Overall, women comprised 21% of editors for these 500 films. Having a woman in a leadership role makes the number of women involved with editing jump 68%.

If you were on the internet when Project Greenlight aired last year, you probably saw the diversity-related spats between producer Effie Brown and actor Matt Damon. The show searches for first time filmmakers and goes through a selection process to give one of them the chance to make a movie. During a discussion of the finalists’ films by the producers, Brown (who is African-American) brings up concerns about racist tropes and suggests the producers think closely about how to choose a director that can treat a black character hovering on the edge between one-dimensional and fully realized with the proper dignity. Matt Damon doesn’t agree this is a concern.

“When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.”

Meaning Matt Damon doesn’t think the gender and ethnic make-up of the crew has any importance so long as you keep it mixed up on screen.

And one should only crew a show based on merit, leaving “all other factors out if it.”

Not to pick on any one dude (although with his Oscar nomination, I’m guessing Matt is doing just fine whether I blog about him or not) it’s important to realize that this is how most people think about hiring for film and television. Gender and race is a distraction and should be ignored completely. Hollywood should be a meritocracy. The best people in creative and technical roles will automatically shuffle to the top of the pile.

If that were true, then there would be a more diverse selection of Oscar nominees. But yet again this year, all the actors and most of the “below the line” crew nominated are white. And among those, mostly male. I’ve written before that equality is important when it comes to nominations — but #OscarsSoWhite doesn’t exist in the bubble of the Academy. It’s an accurate reflection of the current landscape of television and film. Most people in the industry think racial and gender blindness is the way to hiring the best people for the job, but this eliminates anyone who is outside their own circle. In other words, people hire people that look like them unless they’ve made an effort to seek out a more diverse applicant pool.

Maybe one day we’ll be able to fully separate our own bias from hiring and employment practices. Maybe someday people will stop assuming women aren’t interested in technology. Maybe someday companies will stop forcing women out of the pipeline by assuming they want either a family or a career and not both. Maybe someday people will stop thinking that women can only work on womens’ stories. Maybe someday people will stop thinking that womens’ stories are not mainstream, or that female protagonisists can’t engage an audience.

The easy way to solve these problems? Hire women. Make the consideration of women for roles you would normally fill quickly from referrals a priority. Give female hirees the resources and support they need. Listen to them.

Here’s your simple solution: hire women. We’ll sort out the rest.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Jan 21, 2016 at 12:14:05 pm gender equality, post production

Come to my Gender Equality Panel at NAB 2015!

I just realized I haven't formally invited the entire internet to a panel I'm helping to put together at this year's NAB Show. After reading my Sexism in Post article, Adobe reached out to see how they could help the visibility of women in the industry. Long story short, I've been working on this for the last two months, thanks to Adobe and their cooperation with Post Production World (who are a bunch of super cool people, by the way.)

So hear this: if you'll be coming to Vegas this April, please spend an hour and a half of your time at this discussion. It will be open to anyone holding any NAB badge even though its home is within the Post Production World conference, and I'm thankful to PPW for making arrangements to allow a wider audience into the room. Seating will be limited (as it is at every conference), but please put this on your schedule and make it a priority.

We're working on some other things, but in the mean time put this on your schedule right now. In pen. It'll be educational and entertaining and enlightening.

"Working Together to Close the Gender Gap in Post Production"

Monday, April 13th | 5PM - 7PM | Room N252

The first hour(ish) will be a panel discussion. The next hour(ish) will be a mixer and meet-up with drinks and such (thanks to Adobe!) where attendees can meet panelists and other attendees and continue the conversation.

Moderated by Amy DeLouise, the panel features me, Ellen Wixted (Adobe Senior Product Manager), Megan McGough Christian (Production Manager, PBS Frontline), and Siân Fever (UK-based freelance editor).

Just 18% of editors in Hollywood and beyond are women, yet media programs are approximately 50-50 male-female. The visibility of women in producing and coordinating roles is often cited, but there is an undeniable gender gap in technical roles -- editing, visual effects, or sound design -- and that gap has only widened since the 1970s. By working together to understand the root of these issues and committing to make changes, women and men can make a significant impact that will move our industry forward. This panel will discuss the impact of gender equality in the post workplace, strategies for recognizing and un-learning our own internalized sexism, and how we can all work together to adjust hiring practices and erase gender biases in order to ensure the future of women in all post production roles.

Topics include:
• The gender gap in video post-production - why did it happen and how can we work together to fix it?
• Casual sexism affects everyone in ways they don't realize and it's difficult to detect. How can we recognize the patterns and work to eliminate it?
• Committing to hiring and mentorship practices: what can both men and women do to ensure the future of women in post?
• The visibility of women within the industry, and how it affects the next generation
• Discovering your own gender bias - how women can avoid selling themselves short in the workplace, and how men can support them



Posted by: Kylee Peña on Feb 12, 2015 at 10:45:36 am nab, gender equality



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