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Women! Know Your Place

I was reading this article at the weekend about female directors. It makes for depressing reading, talking of actors (or indeed anyone in the industry) “hating” female directors “… I’d like to live in a world where people are ashamed to say things like that, but for some reason it’s still OK. Take out the word “female” in that quote and substitute it with “black,” “Jewish,” or “gay.”” 

Can you imagine? There’d be an uproar. Yet strangely there isn’t when it comes to women. Where is the outrage?

Now I’m not a director, but the article stirred up my own thoughts on what it is to be a woman in this industry. Before I start, I want to point out: I know how fortunate I am. I don’t believe I’ve banged my head on any glass ceiling per se – and the people I’ve worked with, have for the most part, been absolutely brilliant. I’ve genuinely never felt my gender was ever an issue with them – and nor are my various responsibilities. Not once have I ever been made to feel as if my needs as a parent in particular have ever been a problem. So hats off to them, they’re a top lot, especially those at London Screenwriters Festival.

But there IS  a certain echelon of people in the industry who brand certain women “obnoxious” for the SAME kind of behaviour (particularly humour/comedy and self promotion) that they actually APPRECIATE in men, calling them “legends”.

There are certain people who seek to denigrate the efforts of women in attempting to do the same things as men, calling them “girls”, not as a term of endearment, but to belittle them and connote the idea they’re not *really* adults.

And there is a certain feeling that when a man tries to inspire and educate others, the consensus is so often “Look what he’s BUILDING!”  Whereas a woman attempting the same can be met with the markedly more negative initial response of, “What’s SHE going on about?”

Of course, the above isn’t necessarily related *just* to the media. And yes, all of the above has happened to me, thankfully not recently. And do note I say “people” and not just “men”. Some of women’s greatest allies have been men – and some of women’s greatest denigrators, women.

At London Screenwriters Festival, the inclusion of women is a high priority. We include women in panel discussions, judging panels, workshops and seminars wherever possible. In fact, in some of our other events like The London Documentary Summit, women speakers OUTNUMBERED the men (just the way it worked out).  Timing of the LSF was key too:  holding it on a weekend around half term meant many more parents are able to attend – and given women frequently shoulder the lion’s share of the childcare, this means many more can attend than if it was held on weekdays only. Similarly, women are actively encouraged to enter all our contests – and though obviously the work itself, rather than the writer’s gender, is the deciding factor for whether it places/wins, there have even been times the number of women entering has rivalled or even exceeded the men’s entries.

Is it necessary? From my work with female writers, I would say it is. When I started back in the 00s, I was probably reading for one women for every seven or eight men. Over the years, that’s gone down significantly – and since the advent of social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, I’d venture it’s probably more like 1 in 3.

What’s more, women are getting more visible. I recall going to events not that long ago when I was one of only a handful of women in the room. I’ll never forget going to one and a chap who’ll remain nameless joked to me, “Ah, you’re the female contingent again?” But last year at LSF, if anything women probably made up 60% of the delegates. This was a refreshing change.

And women are getting more confident. Where once upon a time I had to strongly cajole many of my female writing clients into entering contests, going to events like LSF or going for script leads, they’re getting out there and doing it, which is great news.

But there’s still work to do. There are still women that shy away from networking or asking questions at events for fear of seeming “pushy”. Even more shocking, there are still some who tell me they “haven’t got anything to say” when they’re asked to be on panels – despite having UNBELIEVABLE careers that EVERYONE would love to hear about.

So, I’m here to say: Women! KNOW YOUR PLACE …

… And that’s to be as VISIBLE AS POSSIBLE.

And it’s up to all of us. Whether that’s to be on a panel, or go to an event to listen to that panel … Or to enter a contest or get on Twitter or make Facebook friends or write a blog.

Big or small, every little helps.

Whatever it is … Just do it. And be SEEN doing it. You have no idea who you’re influencing.


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