Women directors don't get breaks, says report

Cast of Miranda Miranda was among 8% of comedies in sample to have female director

Women directors get fewer breaks in television than men and are close to absent from certain genres, according to a new report.

The Directors UK study took a 'comprehensive snapshot' of programme credits in 2011 and 2012 and matched them to its 5000 plus members (representing 'the majority' of directors working in tv in this country).

It found that women directors were 'grossly under-represented' in drama, comedy and entertainment credits and that the situation had worsened over time.

And while there were more working in the factual genre, they tended to be restricted to programmes about health, food and homes.

Women represent 27% of Directors UK's membership, but they only directed 13% of all drama episodes in the sample. They directed no science fiction or fantasy shows and only 9% of detective and crime serials.

The review - called Women Directors - Who's Calling the Shots? - highlighted that many of the 'fast-track' credits - particularly popular drama - were not offered to women, preventing them from progressing to high-end, authored works.

Health and homes

It was a similar story in entertainment and comedy, where women directed 8% of output in the sample, which drew from the BBC, ITV Studios and six leading indies.

Women were credited with 49% of factual programmes in 2011/12, however, with 69% credited to men [the figures don't add up to 100 due to co-directing credits].

But there was evidence of gender stereotyping, the report noted. While women directed 63% of all programmes about body and health (compared to 50% by men) and 61% about lifestyle and home (72% by men), they only directed 29% of shows about technology and science, with men making 83% of them.

Directors UK said that the broadcasters and production companies it had approached with its findings were 'shocked' and had agreed to work with the professional body to redress the balance.

It has called on the broadcasters to ensure that women direct a minimum of 30% of their productions and commissions by 2017.

The BBC, it said, had already reviewed its hiring practices and was helping to provide training initiatives and networking opportunities for women directors.

It also recommended that they raised awareness of the lack of work for women directors and of the fact that there are many highly qualified and experienced women directors who are being overlooked.

'Women directors are getting shortlisted for awards, winning awards and making short films that get selected for festivals,' the report stated. 'The talent is not in question. But they're not getting put forward or considered for jobs because there are preconceptions about what a director looks like which all too often stops women getting a look in.'

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