Celebrating the creative industries’ women who are breaking the bias

8 March 2022

This International Women’s Day, I want to celebrate a multitude of powerful and influential women who are taking the creative industries by storm and doing brilliant work across the sector. As the first female head of Bectu, I am committed to challenging bias in the workplace and ensuring that women are represented at all levels in the creative industries.

Photo of Head of Bectu Philippa Childs. Photo credit - Craig Fleming Photographer/


Women in the creative industries are great collaborators; it has been inspiring to see women across all sectors, at both senior and grassroots levels, come together to spearhead initiatives and create impressive projects that push for real and long-lasting change.

Creating more equal workplaces in film and TV

A host of women and female-led organisations and projects are making a real difference in the film and TV sector.

Chief Executive Officer of the Film and TV Charity Alex Pumfrey has done remarkable work leading the charity’s work on mental health. Their recently published Looking Glass ’21 report highlights the industry’s continuing mental health crisis, but also pushes for continued hard work by a multitude of stakeholders to secure a better industry for all. It serves as a reminder that the industry is stronger together, and collaboration can lead to real change.

As chair of Time’s Up UK, Heather Rabbats has been doing exceptional work in the fight against bullying and harassment in the screen industries, developing a blueprint for the formation of an independent standard authority to address cases that can’t be addressed and resolved in real time.

Creative UK, which works to support and invest in creative talent across the country, has been transformed under Chief Executive Caroline Norbury, and provided a powerful voice on behalf of the creative industries during the pandemic.

The power of coming together

Across the creative industries women like these are carrying out excellent work. However, I also want to shout out women working on grassroots campaigns that are changing the industry from the bottom up.

Deaf and Disabled People in TV is an online community and campaign group for deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people working in TV, co-founded by series producer Caroline O’Neill. Caroline has consistently advocated for deaf and disabled people in the creative industries, and recently teamed up with Bectu to launch the #DisabilityByDesign campaign to promote representation of deaf and disabled TV professionals on and off screen. Caroline has consistently challenged Bectu to do better in its support for deaf and disabled members.

Share My Telly Job, a campaign group led by freelancers Louise Patel, Natalie Grant, Michelle  Reynolds and Dr Rowan Aust, champions job sharing to help all freelancers, particularly those who are mothers, achieve a better work-life balance, taking into account parental responsibility. Bectu is proud to support their initiative The Time Project, which lets users log their hours and provides useful data around rates and hours across the industry. Raising Films is another organisation ran by women that is fighting for proper recognition of parents and carers by the UK screen sector.

Co-founded by a group of women who work in film and TV, the Call It! app is another great initiative that enables film and TV workers to report highlight bad behaviour and promoting wellbeing in the workplace, while We Are Doc Women provides essential peer support for women directors working in factual television.

Emma Butt, a freelance dubbing mixer and sound editor, has partnered with the Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity to produce a fantastic report about female representation in post-production sound roles in UK TV production.

Driving diversity in the arts

The theatre sector is full of incredible women pushing for increased representation and protection of the industry’s workers.

Amanda Parker is the founder and Chief Executive of Inc Arts, which champions the creative rights of the UK’s ethnically diverse arts sector workforce and supports those across the performing arts. Award-winning Birmingham based theatre company and charity Women & Theatre creates vibrant theatre that challenges inequality through giving voices to underrepresented groups.

Freelancers Make Theatre Work is an inclusive and independent community that campaigns for the interests of the 200,000 self-employed and freelance workers who make up 70% of the UK theatre workforce. Its work has been supported by the National Theatre Foundation, Sadler’s Wells and Arts Council England.

Much of this work happens behind the scenes and the creative sectors are fortunate to have a host of dedicated trade media committed to telling our stories, sharing our successes and adding their voice to our calls to do better. The Stage reporter Giverny Masso is one such example, committed to shining a light on the workplace issues that women, and all theatre workers, face.

Making a name for women in events

Women are vastly underrepresented in events workplaces and consistently navigate a male-dominated sector. Isabella Di Biase, a freelance sound engineer and Bectu rep, is co-chair of the London Union of Venue Technicians, and co-chair of Bectu’s Live Events Network. She ensures that member issues are addressed and represents workers from every role and background in the industry. Isabella does fantastic work within her sector and for the union and is just one example of the many incredible women reps and members that we have across Bectu.

Women in politics

I am proud to have been able to build close working relationships with a number of influential women in Parliament that represent the creative industries. Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell is a great champion for the creative industries, along with her predecessor Jo Stevens, now Shadow Secretary of State for Wales.

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin is doing amazing work to promote the creative industries, establishing the West Yorkshire Culture, Arts and Creative Industries Committee to oversee the delivery of a ‘Creative New Deal’ supported by £500,00 of funding. I am extremely grateful to these women for using their platform to promote the creative industries.

A woman’s place is in a trade union

Last but by no means least, I would like to highlight the work of my colleagues and peers in the trade union movement, who challenge traditionalist norms of women working in politics and society Frances O’Grady is the first woman to hold the position of General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Michelle Stanistreet is the first woman at the National Union of Journalists to hold the post of General Secretary and has long fought for equal pay in the workplace, most recently supporting Samira Ahmed in her fight for equal pay at the BBC. I am also proud to work alongside Louise McMullen, Equity’s Deputy for the General Secretary; and Ellie Peers, General Secretary of the Writers guild of Great Britain. I also want to congratulate Naomi Pohl who became the first woman General Secretary of the Musicians Union this week.

At Bectu and Prospect we have brilliant women officials, too numerous to mention, who are also doing ground-breaking work on behalf of members. Over the past three years, I have witnessed the creative industries changing, with women achieving increased influence in the sector and being granted the space to speak up and use their voice. This is being reflected in Bectu’s membership and it’s great to see so many women reps at Bectu, building our branches and collaborating on our campaigns.

Though representation of women is increasing across the creative industries, there is still a lot of work to do. The initiatives above, and many others, are even stronger when we each bring our voice, experience and talents to the table. By working together and collaborating, I truly believe that women can break the bias and enact real change, in our working lives and beyond.

Find further information and International Women’s Day resources on our Women’s Equality Hub.