Current State & Challenges

Our goal is to level the playing field for Australian female talent. We encourage creators to submit projects directed and/or written by women. This can only benefit the industry as whole; increased competition can lead to better quality projects that connect with audiences whose tastes and interests are changing along with the cultural landscape.

Worldwide Research Studies Reveal Mid-Career Drop-Off

Women & Leadership: A Study of Gender Parity and Diversity in Canada’s Screen Industries 2017

“One of the most common facts cited by researchers is that women attend and graduate film/tv schools in equal numbers to men. They are also well represented in short film production and in entry level positions. Where we see a drop-off or drop-out amongst women is in mid-career. The high risk, long and unpredictable hours, feast or famine, freelance nature of the content production business are often cited as the reasons why women have not flourished or advanced in the industry. Many observe that retention is exacerbated by the volatility in the production business.”

UNESCO Global Report 2015

“In an age of Big Data, when important decisions about most aspects of life are supposed to be taken on the basis of information, the paucity of statistics about cultural activities in general, and women’s participation in creative pursuits in particular, is cause for serious concern.”

Current State in Australia

Screen Australia has taken a strong leadership role in Gender Equality across the industry. It has set a target of 50% of all its funding to women-led productions (3 out of 5 of writer, director, writer/director, producer and protagonist) by 2018.

Gender Matters

Screen Australia’s Gender Matters initiative has brought to the front of our minds the gender disparity in the Australian industry. Full stats here.

Females Working in Creative Roles - Industry Wide Pie Charts for Producers, Directors and Writers

Source: Screen Australia

Climbing the Celluloid Ladder

In her thesis for her Masters of Screen Arts and Business at the AFTRS, Monica Davidson found that “women make up a significant minority of all roles of creative leadership in feature film, in Australia and other international territories, including the United Kingdom and the United States. The most significant reason for this minority is the perpetuation of a flawed meritocracy, and the role of unconscious bias in the advancement of women up the ladder of their career in film. This is particularly important for women in the middle of their careers, aged roughly between 30 and 45 years old.”

Rachel Ward looking through a view finder

Rachel Ward

Unlike many women who might leave a career to start a family, I began my career change after having a family. Returning to up-skill at university soon after my last child was born, I had anticipated being fully ready for career progression by the time all were in school.

Meanwhile, aside from my own personal commitment, I had also been the recipient of a number of funding grants for short films amounting to over $220,000 in government investment in my career.

From there I have made one feature film and been involved in six television productions since starting a career as a director in film and TV 24 years ago. This is not only a very small return for a 24-year commitment for myself, but a very small return on government investment in a career that could have kept progressing.

I never left the country to work overseas and remain as capable and eager to work as many of my fellow directors. On the last project I was the start up director, directing three out of six episodes. The show won Logie and ACCTA awards for best TV film or series.

I have never come in over budget or over time. I have won best directing nods for five of my projects. In the subsequent five years I have not been able to find any work at all.

What then is stopping my career progression?

Sweden Leads the Way

When Anna Serner took the helm of the Swedish Film Institute, she was appalled to see that, despite a policy objective of a 40-60% split, only twentysix percent of the funding went to women-led productions. Outspoken about her views, she set an objective to achieve gender parity (50-50) in its funding by 2016, in the categories of director, writer and producer.

She then followed up her words with action, crafting a multi-faceted action plan enshrined in the Film Agreement of 2013.

The Action Plan included the following actions:

  • Constant counting and reporting on gender equality within its programs. The balance is updated and reviewed at every decision. Each film commissioner is trained about the gender equality objectives and factors equality into every decision.
  • Creation of a website Nordic Women in Film, highlighting the talent and experience of Swedish Female directors. The Swedish Film Institute hopes to expand the site to all Nordic countries.
  • Creation of a strategic leadership training and mentoring program called Moviement to help women directors progress beyond their first film, to make their second or third film.
  • Education initiatives targeted at youth, showing mentors and role models to inspire young women to pursue directing roles.
  • Research and outreach with the industry.

The Swedish Film Institute took a leadership position amongst government funding agencies in 2011 by setting an immediate goal of 50/50 representation for projects directed by women and by men in its allocation of funds – a goal achieved by 2014.

Total Swedish Film Institute Female Participation in funded films 2006-2012 2013-2015

The Swedish Film Institute continues its leadership with the July 2016 release of its new Action Plan entitled Goal 2020: Gender equality in film production, both in front of and behind the camera. This plan contains four strategies:

  • Women in key roles in larger budget productions.
  • Increased visibility
  • Producing annual gender equality reports featuring qualitative analyses as well as statistical reporting.
  • Increased initiatives on education, including seminars targeting teachers and film educators.

Access more statistics

Hollywood Reporter, 2018: How Canada became a springboard for female directors
Statista, 2018: Share of women in behind the scenes roles in Hollywood
Women and Hollywood, 2018: Facts to know about women in Hollywood
The Guardian, 2015: 99% of women in the industry experience sexism
The Conversation, 2017: Why are there so few women screen composers?

Building resilient, sustainable and successful careers for
women in the screen industry