Towards Gender Equality in Cinema Sector
by Paola Bensi
"It's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America," said Patricia Arquette, raising the statuette she won on the night of the Oscars for her role in “Boyhood”. Getting to her feet, her colleague, Meryl Streep, applauded loudly.
In this way, the world of the cinema gave exceptional visibility to the need to close the gap between women and men in terms of their rights and roles in society. Yet, the cinema itself is not free from such lack of balance. This is demonstrated in a recent research study by Stephen Follows on the 2,000 top box-office hits in the US over the past 20 years: the percentage of women in leading creative roles has been a clear minority. They have represented only 5% of directors, 11% of writers and 20% of producers.
Figure 1 - Gender split of key creative roles on the 2,000 highest grossing films, 1994-2013
Source: Stephen Follows, Gender in Film Crews Report, 2014
In Europe, too, gender equality has now come to the attention of both professional and institutional circles, as demonstrated by the European Union's foundation in 2013 of the European Institute for Gender Equality.
For years MEDIA Salles has paid close attention to the professional development of women in the cinema sector, particularly in areas such as exhibition and technology, traditionally associated with men. It is no coincidence that since 2006 the MEDIA Salles Newsletter, DGT Online Informer, has devoted a column to "Woman in Digital Cinema" and that, ever since launching the courses for professional players in the cinema industry, has guaranteed equal training opportunities for women.
Proof comes from the data obtained in an analysis of the participants at DigiTraining Plus, which shows a small cross-section of how professions are represented in Europe's exhibition industry (a total of 214 participants were interviewed) in which women are present in almost half of the professions analysed (fig. 2). Although the number of interviewees cannot be considered statistically representative, it is interesting to note that amongst the participants at DigiTraining Plus there are no significant differences between the numbers of men and women covering top managerial roles, whilst the more technical professions tend to be a male prerogative (fig. 3). Research and project management seem to be more typically female areas, like those of general assistant or specialist in digital cinema.
Figure 2 - Division by gender of participants in the course 'DigiTraining Plus' in the 2009 to 2014 period (214 respondents)
Figure 3 - Professions of participants in the 'DigiTraining Plus' course in the 2009 to 2014 period, according to gender (214 respondents)
Note: Top manager = Exhibitor, CEO, cinema manager etc.
Source: Media Salles
The data collected by MEDIA Salles thus seems to give a more encouraging picture of cinema exhibition in Europe than generally emerges for the United States. Other studies carried out in the area of European cinema production confirm that women are better represented in film production than they are in the USA, despite a considerable lack of balance here, too.
A research study carried out by the CNC in 2012 shows, in fact, that in France 21.1% of entrepreneurs in cinema production and 24.4% in audiovisual production were women. In 2014 Nordicom set up a platform for debate on gender equality in the media (films, journalism, publicity and computer games). From data regarding the analysis of 98 Scandinavian-produced films it emerges that 15% of them were directed by a woman. This is certainly not a satisfactory figure yet but one which, if compared to what happens in the other media, nevertheless shows that women enjoy relatively more equality in cinema production.
Figure 4 - Women and men in lead part and key position in Nordic domestic premiere feature films
(data based on 98 domestic features films with cinema release on its domestic market in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden in 2012)
Source: NORDICOM, Gender Equality in the Nordic Media. Fact sheet from Nordic Gender & Media Forum 2014.
Thus the fact that the results of the MEDIA Salles analysis give us a glimpse of more promising prospects for the role of women in the sector of cinema exhibition compared to those in audiovisual production, suggests the need for new fields of investigation to be explored. It might be of considerable interest, for example, to find out if, amongst the new scenarios that are taking shape, the digitization of the cinema value chain and removal of the material element in many processes makes for greater female representation: more job opportunities but also more opportunities for covering top-level positions.
Women in Digital Cinema in the MEDIA Salles Newsletter since 2006