Under 14% of UK film directors are women


Women make up just 13.6% of working film directors, a figure that has not improved in 10 years, according to a new report.

The report by Directors UK, the professional association of directors working with the moving image in the UK, explores the factors that have led to these figures, such as career progression, budgets, genres, critics, audiences and public funding and shows how the industry culture leads to vastly different outcomes for men and women directing film. Directors UK says the film industry needs to take decisive action to tackle the issue of gender inequality among film directors in the UK and is calling for 50% of publicly funded films in the UK to be directed by women by 2020.

Directors UK says: “Films command a great deal of influence on everyday society and the role of directors as storytellers is fundamental to this. This is why it is incredibly important that film directors reflect the audience they serve. By diversifying the pool of directors we open film up to a greater range of perspectives and stories.”

The findings include:

– Just 11.5% of films in the last 10 years have been directed exclusively by women. In 10 years, the percentage of UK films directed by women increased by only 0.6%.
– Women directors make fewer films in their career and are far less likely to direct a subsequent film after their first one.
– Women directors are also disproportionately under-represented within certain genres, such as action, crime, horror and sci-fi.
– On average UK films are six times more likely to be directed by a man than a woman.

As well as investigating specific film releases, the study also looked at the wider issues affecting women directors throughout their careers. The study concludes that gender inequality is primarily due to unconscious bias caused by systemic issues, which are sustaining and creating these biases and resulting in fewer films being directed by women. It identifies four key systemic isssues:

– There is no regulatory system to effectively monitor, report and enforce gender equality, therefore there are no structured hiring and recruitment practices.
– The lack of certainty within the industry leads to greater risk-aversion and a greater reliance on the pre-conceived stereotype of the director as a man.
– The short-term nature of projects discourages long-term thinking and the use of positive HR practices.
– Existing gender inequality in the film industry creates and supports a vicious cycle of low numbers of women directors meaning lack of role models, a low number of women directors feeds the male director stereotype meaning there are fewer female directors to hire.

Despite publicly funded films being the best performing area of the industry, public funding support for films directed by women had fallen dramatically in seven years, from 32.9% in 2008 to 17% in 2014, says the report. It says that if this decline continues publicly-funded films will soon perform no better than the commercial sector on gender equality.

Around half of film students in the UK are female, but they direct much fewer films of all genres than men when they graduate, with only 3.3% of big budget films being directed by women.

The study makes a number of recommendations:

– 50% of films backed by UK-based public funding bodies to be directed by women by 2020 and a requirement for all public funders to monitor and report on gender.

– the development of the Film Tax Credit Relief system to require all UK films to take account of diversity

– an industry-wide campaign to inform and influence change.

Beryl Richards, Chair of Directors UK and Chair of the Directors UK Gender Equality Group said: “It cannot be acceptable that in 2016 any industry with this level of inequality continues to go unchecked – not least the film industry that plays such an influential role in our economy, our society and our culture. The first step to tackling this is by understanding why these disparities are happening in the industry. With such comprehensive evidence we can now pinpoint and address the areas that need the most attention and focus on rectifying it. Our suggestion of a 50:50 split in public funding is something that has been achieved in other countries, such as Sweden. Equality of opportunity in UK film-making is something we should all be working towards”.

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