Only 14% of women working in the film industry have children. Hope Dickson Leach explains why the current situation for parents and carers in the creative industries needs a radical shift.
One of the hardest things about creating change is having the patience to watch it take hold. Social change comes about as a result of hearts and minds becoming enlightened, systems changing in response, and stakeholders buying into a new mode of operating.
This doesn’t happen quickly, or painlessly. It needs people to fight for it, and to keep fighting. Campaigning for change for parents and carers is incredibly difficult in this regard. As new parents with lives turned upside down, we become radicalised. I certainly did. “This is systematic sexism!” we cry, seeing our careers get tossed away with the dirty nappies (women are statistically far more likely to lose employment over becoming parents than men). “Civil society is not built for social responsibilities and yet relies entirely on them!’ we yell, over-caffeinated and under-rested. But parents and carers have little time for luxuries like fighting inequality. We need support from organisations that will take on the fight, while we are able to concentrate on managing our sleep deficits and our ever-evolving challenges.
This week, the annual This Way Up film exhibition conference will discuss the apparent bias against those working within the film industry and trying to raise a family. Two major pieces of new research have clearly outlined how the film industry’s default setting is to ignore caring needs, and that parenting is a proven restriction to career progression.
What we learned from these reports is pretty staggering. Women were 75% more likely than men to cite parental responsibilities as a career barrier in the creative industries; 79% of respondents reported that their career felt a negative impact from their parenting and caring responsibilities. But the shocking final blow is that, unlike other industries, where 74% of working women have children, only 14% of women working in film have children. The research was commissioned by Creative Scotland (Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Survey), and Raising Films (Making It Possible: Voices of Parents and Carers in the UK Film & TV Industry).
Re-imagining parents and children in cultural life
The effective discrimination against women is not the only reason to examine how parents are being treated by the industry. Engaging with families and parents is something that the film exhibition sector also needs to address. Cultural activities have long been at the forefront of not just reflecting the change we would like to see, but also bringing change to society. There are some wonderful organisations operating in inclusive ways. Chalk, a small start up in the North East of England has, in less than a year, produced a series of sell-out pop-up events which have challenged the traditional model of parent friendly-film activities.
The Glasgow Short Film Festival have for several years now included parent and baby screenings, and this year presented a family animation screening followed by a drop-in animation workshop for young people. Over the summer the Wee Green Cinema put on a week of bike-powered screenings of environmental short films for children during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It is no coincidence that the organisers of all of these events are parents themselves. They recognised the gaps, they wanted to provide cultural experiences for a variety of audiences, and they have set out and made it happen. These organisations are re-imagining how to include both parents and children in cultural life. By getting children involved young, and by keeping parents culturally engaged during the Peppa Pig years, we are not only serving our society’s carers, we are investing in them as participants in shaping the future.
By Hope Dickson Leach, originally published by inews. Hope Dickson Leach is an Edinburgh based writer and director whose debut film The Levelling will be in UK cinemas in 2017. She is also a co-founder of Raising Films, an organisation working to improve the conditions of parents and carers in the film industry.