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Deeds not Words. An Analysis of Gender Equity Policies and Key Creatives

Alexia Muiños Ruiz
Alexia Muiños Ruiz

Deeds not Words. A summit in London to discuss current Equity Policies to achieve greater equity in the screen industries

 EWA Network team, Anamaria Antoci and Alexia Muiños Ruiz attended DEEDS NOT WORDS, a London event part of a 4-day Media summit organised by Kings College London, which gathered about 50 screen industry professionals, including researchers and policy makers.

The springboard for discussion was the new Re-Framing the Picture report: An International Comparative Assessment of Gender Equity Policies in the Film Sector, which analysed 500 equity policies in the UK, Germany and Canada and examined key creatives working on 12,000+ films made between 2005 and 2020 in 34 different countries.  The Gender Equity Policy (GEP) Analysis Project  is the result of a three-year work of an international team from four universities: Prof. Skadi Loist from Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, Prof. Doris Ruth Eikhof, University of Glasgow, Prf. Elizabeth Prommer from universität Rostock and Prof. Deb Verhoeven from University of Alberta.

The international and multidisciplinary research project analyzed and modelled the impact of gender equity policies within the film sector, focusing on Germany, the UK, and Canada. The full report was the subject of a morning session with detailed information on the conclusions of the GEP Analysis Project by the academics who led the research, Prof. Doris Ruth Eikhof, Prof. Skadi Loist, Prof. Elizabeth Prommer and Prof. Deb Verhoeven.

The afternoon session, hosted by broadcaster  Jane Hill (in a personal capacity), and broadcaster and inclusion advisor Shani Dhanda, included different panels with the following industry speakers:

Sara Putt, Chair, BAFTA & MD, Sara Putt Associates; Katie Bailiff, CEO, Women in Film & TV; Mia Bays, Director of the Filmmaking Fund, BFI; Inga Becker, Coordinator, Diversity & Inclusion, MOIN; Julia Brown, Diversity Standards Manager, BFI; Philippa Childs, Head, Bectu; Gareth Ellis Unwin, CEO, Bedlam Film Productions; Alison Grade, CEO, Mission Accomplished & Author, The Freelance Bible; Laura Mansfield, CEO, ScreenSkills ; Birgit Moldaschl, Deputy Lead, Gender & Diversity, Austrian Film Institute ; Tolu Stedford, Founder and CEO, Story Compound; Lalita Taylor, Exec Producer, BBC & Chair, WiSTEM; Su-Mei Thompson, CEO, Media Trust.

Download here the programme of the event

Prof. Doris Ruth Eikhof, University of Glasgow
Prof. Doris Ruth Eikhof, University of Glasgow
Panel: What works? Using diversity and inclusion checklists
Panel: What works? Using diversity and inclusion checklists
Prof. Skadi Loist from Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf
Prof. Skadi Loist from Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf
Katie Bailiff, CEO, Women in Film & TV
Katie Bailiff, CEO, Women in Film & TV

Key Findings:

1. Rising Recognition but Slow Progress:

  • Gender equity policies have increased in number since 2013/14 across Germany, the UK and Canada.
  • On the whole, policies recognize gender equity as a structural problem and focus on improving the under-representation of women.
  • Progress in achieving equitable representation of men and women in key creative roles is painstakingly slow, with distinct trajectories in each jurisdiction.

2. Equity Gains without Male Displacement:

To date, gains made by women and gender minorities have not come at the expense of men, indicating gender equity benefits have arisen as the result of an expansion of the industry rather than a displacement of men.

3. Gender Disparities in Project Collaborations:

Men predominantly collaborate with other men, highlighting a major gender disparity in the formation of professional networks.

4. Policy-Reality Gap:

  •  Current policies often fall short of addressing the root causes of gender inequity.
  • Weak mechanisms for accountability and evaluation make policies susceptible to faux- or no-compliance.

5. Need for Policies to Address Structural Change:

  •  Achieving equity requires not only an increase in the number of women but also structural changes in power dynamics.
  • Policies must be intersectional, sustainable, and address both short- and long- term impacts.

6. Need for Policies to Consider Customized Approaches for Varied Contexts:

Hypothetical modeling of different interventions shows varying success rates across different jurisdictions. This finding suggests that there is no one-size- fits-all solution, and emphases the need for policies that are attuned to distinctindustry context

Network analysis expert Prof Deb Verhoeven, University of Alberta, Canada, warned that simple solutions may not always be the best solutions. “Simply preventing men from dominating at the team level  does not necessarily disrupt men’s dominant positions in the industry overall. All that happens is we get fewer men with relatively more power. This is an important and difficult distinction to get one’s head around. Improving the number of women and people who identify as gender minorities in the industry is critical, but we also need strategies that disrupt men’s behaviours such as the predominant tendency for men to collaborate with other men, a major gender disparity in the formation of professional networks"

On a delightful note, EWA Network's pan-European research, coordinated by Holly Aylett, was the first acknowledgement at the references.