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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine