Women directors in British TV: Underrepresented and losing ground

Whilst Cannes’ head judge Jane Campion accuses the festival of keeping women’s films out of view, a report published by Directors UK reveals that British television also has a growing problem with women.

The report, which collates information on over 28,200 episodes created by the country’s leading production companies, concludes that there are worryingly low numbers of women directors in British television. More concerning perhaps is the fact that the problem is getting worse: the percentage of female directors actually dropped over the course of the years examined (2011 and 2012).

One of the main reasons behind the issue appears to be a relative invisibility of available female directors compared to their male counterparts. The BAFTA-winning director Beryl Richards, vice chair of Directors UK, explained how this dynamic works in an interview on BBC Front Row: “There are a few women who are really experienced and known and they work a lot. If they [production companies] can’t get those women, it’ll go to a man. Because they don’t know any women beyond those four or five.”

Many of the most popular series on British television, which could act as essential stepping stones in a director’s career, have never been directed by a woman. Examples of these productions are QI, Vera, The IT Crowd, Benidorm, The Inbetweeners and Inspector George Gently, but the list includes many more. A further large group of well-known shows have been directed by women in less than 30 per cent of their entire run. These include most soap operas and medical dramas such as Holby City and Coronation Street, for which women directed just 15 per cent of episodes. This statistic indicates a bottle-neck problem, as shows like these are often a breeding ground for new talent.

“We’re looking at the next generation, and that’s the sort of place they’re coming through. You’re narrowing it very early on, they can’t even get through the door to start with”, Richards says.

The documentary sector shows a more promising balance of male and female directors. However, many areas of this type of programming display an alarming level of gender stereotyping. The highest percentages of women directors are seen on factual programmes concerned with domestic issues, body image and food. In addition, the assumption that women will find directing hard to combine with childcare also harms their chances of being hired, as well as a perception that women may not be able to manage mainly male crews and casts.

The most important recommendation of the report involves raising awareness of the issue and monitoring the demographics of all workers in the sector. The majority of broadcasters and production companies involved in the investigation had no idea of the scale of the problem, and reacted with shock at the report’s figures. Commissioners are usually unaware of the make-up of their freelance production teams and don’t keep track of these statistics, despite implementing equal opportunity strategies within their own organisations.

The report suggest a concrete target for all major broadcasters; encouraging them to ensure that a minimum of 30 per cent of their work is assigned to women directors by 2017. According to Richards, “because these decisions are being made so high up, to be honest, there’s about six people who need to change their minds on this, and it could effect the most enormous amount of change.” It's good news, then, that all of the companies reviewed for the report have expressed a desire to create more job opportunities for women in response to the new findings.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Langley James : Web Developer; PHP, MySQL, Java; Blackfriars; £25k

£25000 per annum + training: Langley James : Web Developer; PHP, MySQL, Java; ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?