Women's Working Group open meeting 2012

17 January 2013

Open meeting December 2012

Update on Women’s Working Group


The Panel:      Beryl Richards (Chair), Anna Richards (Factual),

  Delyth Thomas (Drama), Victoria Morris

  and Andrew  Chowns (Directors UK)


Early last year a working group was set up to look at the issues affecting women directors in the industry in light of the fact that several of us felt strongly that things haven’t improved much over the last decade, and if anything seem to have got worse. It’s the 21st Century, the Equality Opportunity Act has been in place since the ‘70s, the Gender Equality Duty since 2007, so what’s going on? Although many of the issues affect our male colleagues too, the perceived lack of employment opportunities for women needs to be addressed, urgently.

Certainly, the anecdotal evidence sent to us by members appears to support this view, but there’s nothing quite as powerful as data to back up an argument - we saw how effective evidence-based research was in the re-negotiation of the UK Rights Deal for example. But there is very little, if any, hard data on women directors in television, so we undertook a research project to analyse our own database which holds information on pretty much every television programme broadcast on British TV. That’s a lot of data and the beauty of it, is that it’s data supplied by the broadcasters themselves. Nice. Actually, when the analysis of the statistics came in, not so nice. Almost bra-burningly depressing.

As a starting point we established the percentage of women members in Directors UK so that we had a benchmark figure of what we might expect to see in employment. Working patterns across all age groups were analysed; programmes of all genres, length and longevity were broken down into the number of episodes ever made, over the last 5 years, 2 years, and the last reporting year.


  • 27% of Director UK members are women

  • There is a general drop off in work output for both male and women directors after the age of 55, but a greater drop off amongst women directors in the 35-55 age range

  • There is a difference between genres in terms of how well represented women directors are, with drama representation falling well below the ratio of working women directors

  • Continuing drama – on average 15% of episodes were directed by women, 85% by men.  On some series the % of episodes directed by women falls below 3%.

  • Drama series and serials – on average 9% of episodes were directed by women, 91% by men. On some series the % of episodes directed by women falls well below 3%. The findings also suggest some gender stereotyping in drama with science fiction, action and detective dramas showing particularly low representation of women, in some cases as low as 0%.

  • Factual and factual entertainment programmes – on average 36% of episodes were directed by women, 64% by men. The findings also suggest some gender stereotyping.

It’s not all bad though, there is plenty of evidence that women can and do make television shows and films in all genres, at every level, but the data clearly shows that women just aren’t being given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. There are so many reasons as to why this might be:  executives and commissioners making hiring decisions not the producers who do the interviewing; women’s CVs are often considered to be ‘eclectic’, therefore negative because they are not as ‘straight line’ as their male colleagues; we are all freelance in an industry where HR departments are largely staff-focussed so the situation is totally unmonitored; there are lists of preferred directors held by broadcasters in most areas, how many of women are on these lists?

However, this is all speculation based on anecdotal evidence, and with a need to better understand the underlying cause of this disparity, members of the Women’s Working Party met with high level executives at the BBC, PACT and ITV at the end of last year. All three were surprised and shocked by the statistics. All three were at a loss to explain why the figures are so bad. All three are going to try and at least find out if there is any underlying cause at their end. If it’s just a matter of ‘not knowing any women directors’ we could arrange a speed-dating event for commissioners and executives to meet women directors who might be appropriate for their project. If it’s to do with ‘technical issues’ we could offer courses in the specific areas such as camera or CGI….ideas on a postcard please. Whatever the underlying factors might be, all three are keen to work with us to address the issue and will be arranging follow up meetings early this year. We’ll keep you posted.

This is just a brief summary of the information discussed at the open meeting last December, where the room was buzzing at the end. It was great to hear about positive experiences as well as the negative ones so please, please get in touch with aparker@directors.uk.com with any ideas/anecdotes/ quotes you might have, or if you want to get involved.

The more the merrier… there’s power in numbers.