Deeds not Words: London event discusses how to achieve gender equity in the screen industries 

18 April 2024

Bectu joined around 90 screen industry professionals, policy makers and academics at Kings College London yesterday (17 April 2024) to discuss what works (and what doesn’t) to improve gender equity in the screen industries. 

Broadcaster Jane Hill and broadcaster and inclusion advisor Shani Dhanda hosted the event, titled ‘Deeds not Words’, which comprised networking, spotlight interviews, panels and workshops. 

 Discussion centred around the new Re-Framing the Picture report, launched earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival. The research analysed 500 equity policies in the UK, Germany and Canada and examined 12,000 films made between 2005 and 2020 in 34 different countries, and unveiled groundbreaking insights into gender equity policy in the film industries. 

The report also analyses the policies, practices and experiences behind these figures, including where progress has been made. It is the result of of the three-year Gender Equity Policy (GEP) Analysis Project undertaken by an international team of academics from Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Germany), University of Glasgow (UK), University of Rostock (Germany), University of Alberta (Canada), and Deakin University (Australia).  

 Crucially, it found that gains for women and gender minorities do 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. 

Sessions at Deeds not Words included discussion of what policies/interventions currently work or could work to achieve gender equity, what the barriers are, and what can be learnt from existing interventions such as the BFI Diversity Standards to increase the number of women in key creative roles in film. 

The research shows that policies are proliferating but progress is slow. The event therefore also considered the best ways of turning words into deeds, including building alliances across the sector.

On a panel session on what action the sector needs to take, Head of Bectu Philippa Childs paid tribute to positive developments such as the creation of the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority, and initiatives like The WonderWorks, (the world’s first childcare provider dedicated to film and TV families), but was clear that cross-industry collaboration and a sustained commitment from industry would be necessary to improve things for women in the sector.  

Professor Doris Ruth Eikhof, University of Glasgow and lead UK academic on the GEP Analysis Project, said: “Deeds Not Words asks what does – and doesn’t – work to improve gender equity in the screen industries.  

 “The GEP Analysis Project used innovative methods to research the design and impact of gender equity policies. Deeds Not Words brought leading research, industry and policy experts together to discuss how to take these findings forward. We heard from policy leads, campaigners, Oscar-winning producers – and, of course, Bectu, who we were delighted to welcome.” 

 Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: 

 “Far too many women in film and TV, particularly freelancers, are still struggling to balance a career in the industry with parenting or caring responsibilities, due to inadequate support and many parts of the industry remaining unwilling to embrace things like flexible working and job sharing. 

 “With 40% of women working in film and TV in the UK recently telling us they planned to leave the sector in the next five years, it’s never been more critical for the industry to collaborate and commit to better accommodating this crucial part of the workforce. 

“The current model is simply not sustainable and if the industry wants to retain its talent, it must do better by the women who are critical to its success.” 

The event’s panellists included: 

 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 of 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 

Academic contributors from the GEP Analysis Project included: 

Prof. Doris Ruth Eikhof, University of Glasgow  

Prof. Skadi Loist, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF 

Prof. Elizabeth Prommer, University of Rostok  

Prof. Deb Verhoeven, University of Alberta 

 For further information, please contact Professor Doris Ruth Eikhof, University of Glasgow, [email protected].