Freefolk MD Justine White crunches the numbers and finds that the post industry should follow creative and production in their efforts to better support female talent
Ever since ex-Saatchi boss Kevin Roberts’ explosive comment last August that the 'gender debate was fucking over', an undeniable wave has rippled across the world of advertising, media drawing attention to the fact that gender inequality is still rife in the industry. More so, that the issue is now part of a wider global crusade in gender diversity and equality.
At last year's ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ event with Free The Bid by David Reviews and the APA, it became apparent to me that if advertising and production are doing more to promote women in creative and technical roles, so must we in post production.
I found the same question still hangs over us: why are there still not more women in technical and creative roles in post production industry?
A quick whip around Soho on International Women's Day of the top commercials post houses has revealed that the percentage of women operators/artists such as Colourists, Flame ops, Nuke, CGI and technicians consist of approximately 14% of the workforce. Keen to champion equality and diversity at Freefolk, we’re proud to be above the average with 25% of our operators and technicians being female, but even we know that it’s still not good enough.
At least Free The Bid is an initiative actually doing something tangible in Advertising production, getting ad agencies to pledge that one in three on every director pitch list is a woman. The basic economics of it are so simple and it’s already working.
But what about the rest of us? What can we do and what are the agencies and production companies doing in ensuring diversity filters down to crew and post production?
In 20 years, since its inception, no woman has yet won a British Arrows Craft Award for post production (Colour Grading, CGI, VFX, Editing or Sound). And yes, I know the awards are based on merit not gender, but it is illustrative of how few women are getting the top creative and technical roles in post.
I spoke to our in-house female artists to see what their thoughts are and what challenges they may have faced getting into the ‘14% club’.
Senior Flame Artist Judy Roberts started her career working on reception at a post house before visual effects or anything comparable was a subject at university or college, where the only way to train was by learning the kit after hours.
"When I started it was definitely harder, as compositing was often seen as technical rather than creative, and a lot of operators came from an engineering background. There was a real assumption that a receptionist would be looking to become a producer one day, so I did have to work very hard to convince people to let me learn to operate."
Did they feel treated differently to their male counterparts both within the industry and from clients?
“Sometimes” says Judy, “It’s been assumed I'm a producer when I'm in meetings or on set, but when I'm at the Flame I don't think there's a difference. In the past, I've definitely experienced a 'boys club' atmosphere in some post companies but I think that’s much less common nowadays."
Nuke Artist Kayley Fernandes and Colourist Holly Greig agree on being "treated equally by my male colleagues.” However client experiences can differ. Holly comments on a time "where I genuinely felt I was being judged negatively on my capability in a session because of my gender." On a positive note, she has often been requested because of her gender. "Nowadays, I am constantly finding that there are a lot of projects where the entire film or documentary has been created and completed by women.”
Encouraging signs then, that acceptance within the post production workplace is becoming less discriminatory, but are there still perceptions of men doing a better job? Barclays reported in ‘Shattering Stereotypes’ (2015) that highly successful women in business rate themselves more moderately than men who are less successful. The subject of gender stereotyping came up at last year’s FMX conference which Kayley attended. “Discussion was that women just weren't as assertive as they could be in a situation even if they know they're correct and will second guess themselves in some situations when usually a man assertively doubts or argues against them.”
My belief is not that women think they are less confident of their capabilities, but that the perception of women in typically male dominated jobs is that we are not.
In my opinion it starts at the very beginning. After Freefolk took part in the APA’s Action on Diversity program taking in high school work placements, it only reinforced my conviction that early encouragement of both genders on the path into technical roles is essential. Role models are essential to this encouragement too as well as acceptance by all. We’ve always encouraged women to progress in which ever way they want in Freefolk, but as well as many of the people I’ve spoken to in the last week gathering numbers, there simply aren’t as many female CV’s dropping into the inbox.
The exit figures from some post courses at UK universities over the last three years are worrying. Only 25% of Ravensbourne’s BA Editing & Post graduates are female and Bournemouth cites an average of 28% across it’s various Computer Graphics Animation courses .
If all you lovely advertising agencies and production companies out there are serious about changing things, then why not ask your favourite post house if they have female artists to work with? If you demand we will supply.
1. Based on statistics from Framestore, Freefolk, Glassworks, MPC, The Mill, Rushes, ETC (March, 2017)
2. Based on FOI requests (March, 2017)