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Who is calling the shots in TV?

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Directors Uk looks at the shortage of women directors on British TVGender stereotyping and lack of opportunity holds women directors back in British television.

Television production is the largest area of employment for directors, and 27 per cent of Directors UK members are women.

Yet the percentage of women directing British television shows is far less than it should be and is getting worse over time.

Having analysed the credits of its database of 5,000 directors and a sample of programmes broadcast up to 2012, Directors UK found an alarming level of gender stereotyping occurring within the television industry.

The research examined repeating series, returning dramas and returning factual strands and looked at all programme genres from the production companies that produce the majority of the shows currently on screen in order to ascertain whether the figures were showing a trend or were a single occurrence.

Many of the most popular drama, comedy and entertainment shows have never been directed by a woman.

Yet 63 per cent of all programmes included in the research about body and health were directed by women, and of all factual programmes included in the research about lifestyle and home, 61 per cent were directed by women.

As for business, technology and science, women directed only 20 per cent of all episodes as compared to 83 per cent directed by men.

To counter the suggestion that these disparities may be a choice as women opt out of further career progression in order to have a family, Directors UK pointed out that the majority of their women members were in the main child-bearing and rearing age bracket of 34 to 44.

Researchers then asked, ‘Are women getting the same breaks to showcase their talents?’

The answer was a resounding no.

Several programmes currently running on British television are seen as fast-track opportunities to the next level of a directing career, and in 2011 and 2012 – the period of time covered by the research – were solely directed by men.

And because of this lack of linear career development, many women directors have moved sideways and taken on a broader, more diverse library of work.

‘Rather than this being celebrated as evidence of flexibility and diverse ability, [within the industry] it is often viewed as ‘not focused.’

Responses to the findings have largely been varying degrees of shock, possibly because senior executives simply have not been in the position to monitor this type of data.

And researchers point to the significant numbers of senior women in the industry as potentially masking ‘the truth of how different the situation is in the production environment.’

With the support of major broadcasters, Directors UK has made eight recommendations for reaching the 2017 goal of having women direct at least 30 per cent of all original programmes broadcast.

The recommendations focus on monitoring, awareness-raising and behaviour change.

Directors UK is asking broadcasters to begin monitoring freelance workers to capture data on ethnicity, disability and gender and to make a commitment to reach the 2017 goal of 30 per cent of all original programming to be directed by women.

It is committing itself to running regular networking and CV advice sessions to bring both sides of the industry together on a regular basis, so directors meet executives and those hiring gain a better understanding of the ‘non-linear’ CV.

And mentoring and providing more long-term contracts are also recommendations that could help to boost the numbers of women directing in television.

‘Television,’ the report points out, ‘reflects society and society’s attitudes and should do so both behind and in front of camera.’

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