The Equality Challenge: Behind The Scences & Screens

As we celebrate International Women’s Day it is fair to ask what the status of equality is in the TV industry. This year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge is well chosen indeed, as women’s inequality is still prevalent in our industry and a challenge, that have to face. And we should choose to take that challenge: Women are an important asset for our industry – more so: women are the future of TV.

Media has always been a bit of an avantgarde industry and often took on early trends and developments in society. In the best of all worlds, media lead such trends to make each society more open, human, equal and rich. In the worst, it only used trends to profit and manipulate. But media outlets everywhere become more and more aware of the role they play and the impact they can have on both individual lives as well as societies at large. Media has responsibilities and needs to actively engage also in bringing more equality into all aspects of the industry and the community they engage with.

When I look at my own career in media and the women I was honored to work with, I can proudly say, that most often it was the female leaders that impressed me most and that helped me to challenge my thinking and my learning. At the same time I could also see that our industry is often stuck in conservative, old-fashioned role-models. Lets be brutally honest: we celebrate women when they are stars on the screen, but still trail way behind when it is about putting women in charge, as a study by McKinsey & Company revealed. The industry is still dominated by male CEO’s, male top executives and male decision-makers. Women are confident to traditional roles such as clerks, assistants, sales (because they can connect so well, its said), lower administrational tasks and support staff etc.

Some success in equality is to be seen when we look on the screen though instead of behind it: more women are actively engaged in the creative work. We can see more successful TV shows and movies that feature women as the lead character. And these roles are usually shattering typical role stereotypes. Older TV formats portrait women always in typical roles as housewife, mother, femme fatale, etc. Nowadays we can watch women in leadership roles, as heroines, as strong, self-confident and skilled characters. Many Tv series on trendsetter Netflix are proof of this.

But again, such moves should not done for profit only, because it feeds a certain appetite of the audience. We must take action and choose the challenge to have more women in leadership and more women as part of all of our teams. There are good initiatives in that arena to be seen. BBC has a programme to help fight gender inequality both on and off screen. One of the key ideas and often biggest hurdle of this initiative is to challenge your own view and perspective onto equality. As a white man I almost never encounter any discrimination – even more so: as an openly gay white men in a modern Western society I have very, very rarely encountered any problems and such a problem was nothing more than a stupid remark from a dumb person. However, we still find structural discrimination against women allover the place- and we as men don’t see it. We have, hence, to make an effort to look out for it and observe more carefully where this structural, personal and traditional discrimination takes place. It is happening every day; you only have to choose to challenge to see it and then fight it.

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