Breaking the bias in the media production industry

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By Kim Willsher, Head of Americas, Bubble Agency

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It’s also a call to action for accelerating women’s equality, and the theme for IWD 2022 is #BreakTheBias.

We spoke to women in media production to find out how far the industry has come, and what more needs to be done to #BreakTheBias. 

Alexandra Maier is director of global marketing and communications, Media Solutions at consulting services firm CGI.

While I feel very encouraged by the fact that more women are being appointed to top positions in the broadcast and media sector, there’s definitely still room for improvement, particularly when it comes to increasing female representation in more technical roles, and at C-level. At education level, making technical studies at media universities more attractive to female candidates is a great starting point. If I think back to my media university days, there were little to no women in the ‘media technology’ faculty, compared with the number of females in the communications and marketing faculty, which was well over 60 per cent.

In the workplace, appointing more women at board level creates more visibility, which can be very motivating for aspiring female candidates. Formal mentoring programs that support women in the progression of their careers are another way to create more equal opportunities for women to be successful in this sector.

Nicki Fisher is sales director – EMEA at real-time communication solutions and services provider Clear-Com.

 

At Clear-Com, we are passionate about ensuring diversity across the business with a strong percentage of women in senior roles. During the pandemic, we appointed two female graduates into our Test Engineering department at Cambridge in the UK, which was previously an all-male team. Both engineers joined at different points in their careers, one who had just completed her Computer Science undergraduate degree and the other, a mother of two school-age children, who has worked to achieve her post-graduate diploma in software engineering after attaining her Electronics degree in India. Both ladies are a great example of #breakthebias.

For International Women’s day, Clear-Com will be supporting Rise at an event in Mulberry UTC in London. Here, industry professionals and students will have the opportunity to learn more about Rise – a group for gender diversity in broadcast and the fantastic programs that we are extending across the world. On the day itself, there will be a careers fair and keynote speakers and panel discussions from the industry talking about career development and progression. 

Later in the week, we will be bringing the Rise Up Academy program to Mulberry, which will allow students to learn more about the broadcast industry, workflow and the production of a TV game show. 

In the Spring, we will be taking the Rise Up Academy to other regions across the UK with the intention of engaging over 1000 students. At this time, we will also be launching the award-winning industry mentorship programs in the UK, US and Asia Pacific regions. If you are interested in sponsoring Rise please contact Carrie@risewib.com. There are some great opportunities to get involved and support the future of our industry.

Alexandra Coulson is head of global marketing at disguise, a platform for creatives and technologists to imagine, create and deliver visual experiences.

I think confidence plays a huge part in this gap for women, especially when it comes to more senior roles in the industry. Women often don’t apply for a role unless they feel 100% qualified, whereas men might take that risk a bit easier. And that can unfortunately see women take a sideways move. At disguise, our senior leadership team is building a pipeline of strong leaders to help women to progress. Although I think attitudes are generally improving in the industry, it’s essential that men and those at the top actively support and believe in their female peers and colleagues.

We’re very lucky at disguise, as we’re surrounded by lots of strong female leaders who are encouraging and supportive. I think there’s this misconception that for one woman to succeed, everyone else has to fail, and this really isn’t the case. We’re much better off championing each other.

Angela Gibbons is head of sales at broadcast solutions and service provider EMG UK.  

The broadcast space has come a long way since I started my career. We have made so much progress across the industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We should be so proud that the coverage and production values of women’s sport are just as good as men’s with at times even greater engagement! It’s also fantastic to see female pundits providing analysis for live sport broadcasts. There are more women working behind the camera, in front of the camera and as broadcast executives than ever before. It’s also important to recognize the role of organizations such as Rise, which promote gender diversity across the media technology sector, but also acknowledge the support of our male peers in levelling the playing field for women.

Kerry Freeman is head of sales, UK & Ireland, at Iron Mountain Entertainment Services (IMES), which specializes in physical and digital asset preservation and archiving for the entertainment industry.

 

The industry is learning to invest in itself, to provide awareness and knowledge of careers and roles from the grassroots and upwards. Rise, for example, is a great organization specifically supporting women in broadcast, media entertainment and technology; helping to support individuals, educate businesses on best practices and prepare the next generation of talent. I believe that we are moving away from assessing by gender and qualifying based on experience and ingenuity. I feel privileged to be working at a company like IMES, where people are valued based on their expertise and passion rather than their gender.

Amanda Dixon is broadcast marketing manager at Mark Roberts Motion Control (MRMC), which specializes in camera robotics and automation.

 

For much of my career, I have worked in-house for broadcast manufacturers, alongside product management and R&D teams. In my experience, I can deliver much more effective marketing if I understand the technology behind the products and the applications they are designed for. In previous roles, I have come up against male colleagues who assume I don’t, won’t or can’t understand the technicalities of the solutions that are to be marketed, and either refuse to read what I have written because it ‘will need a re-write’ or outright mock me as simply being the ‘arts department’. I hate to use the term ‘mansplaining’, however as broadcast happens to be a male-dominated industry I have experienced it far too frequently, in the office and at tradeshows.

Jess Meredith is head of data and insights at Monterosa, which provides a real-time engagement platform for media and sports brands.

Early on in my career I asked my boss for feedback. “Try to lower your voice, I think people will take you more seriously if you do,” was his response. At the time I naively accepted that I would need to change to fit into the work environment and to progress my career. And I know the same is felt by many other women, and those from other marginalized and minority groups.

If I had only known back then that there are companies that don’t want you to change who you are, and who allow you to be yourself and thrive as a result. I am lucky to find myself at a company where I am actively encouraged to be myself. This means all my energy can be focused on performing well and adding value to the business – which benefits both Monterosa and I.

I feel this is a growing sentiment within the broadcast industry, and while there is still progress to be made, especially in terms of representation, the industry has taken giant steps in the past decade to make things right. International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to raise our voice, reflect on how far we have come, as well as consider what other areas still need to be addressed. 

Alison Pavitt is director of sales and marketing at Pebble, a leader in broadcast automation.

 

The broadcast world is an exceptionally welcoming and rewarding industry in which to work, and it’s great to see engaged and talented women getting involved, being mentored, and rising through the ranks. Greater inclusion and diversity is good for business, so fostering great talent across the board simply makes sense.

Having successful employees gives the company excellent visibility, makes them more attractive as an employer and encourages a more diverse workforce to apply for vacancies – if you can see it, you can be it! Being a supportive organization is also key. For example, remote working as an option can be beneficial for those with commitments outside work – if not completely remote, as at Pebble, then at least the flexibility to occasionally work from home.

Anna Lockwood is vice president of international at content delivery services provider Telstra Broadcast Services.

 

There is so much more conversation and awareness around supporting women in broadcast technology than when I started out in the business. I think we have made a huge amount of progress over the last 30 years, but we shouldn’t be complacent. We need to continue to celebrate the achievements of women in our industry, raise awareness and take action to address gender imbalance.

The work of advocacy groups is hugely important. This is why I’ve been an active board member and mentor for Rise, a group for women in broadcast. Rise started in the UK and has now expanded further in Europe, to the USA, and to Asia. They support lots of activities, a mentoring program, industry awards, and workshops for school-age children. There are many more structured ways now in which companies and industry organizations are working for change, which complement what we all do informally to support women in the industry.

Working in broadcast and sports technology is such a great career! It is an amazing industry and a fantastic area to work in. As an industry we must ensure that we not only attract women to the media and broadcast space but also retain them and promote them. We need to make our industry a long-term career choice for women and support women throughout their career journeys. Luckily there are now many more female founders, leaders and CEOs at the top levels of the media technology business. They are great role models to inspire the next generation of women to join our industry.

We want the broadcast and sports technology industry to reflect our wider society. It’s not just gender equality but wider diversity that needs our attention. Celebrating the achievement of women is important, because it also raises awareness of bias and acts against inequality. On International Women’s Day it’s important to consider that helping women succeed in their careers helps everybody to break the bias.

Soraya Robertson is commercial director and co-owner of broadcast solutions supplier The Collectv.

We’ve made phenomenal strides towards achieving gender parity in the broadcast sector, yet there are still barriers to success for women, in this sector as well as other areas of technology. Some of these barriers are physical. Maternity leave is a good example, and how companies deal with this is important. I think it comes down to a cultural mindset that needs to change – we may live in a very modern world but having a family, having children, is part of the fundamentals of life. Progressive organizations embrace this and have proper mechanisms and processes in place to support women who choose to have both a family and a career.

Other barriers are less obvious, hidden in the preconceptions of both genders through the generations. For example, the same language used by women and men can be perceived and understood differently. Having an awareness of this goes a long way towards changing how both men and women approach conversations and collaboration in the workplace.

Sukh Rahllen is director of client services at Visual Data Media Services, which provides content management and digital supply chain solutions.

 

“I feel proud to work for a company which is naturally gender balanced. We have not had to force ourselves into this position. We have hired the best talent for the right positions and the gender balance has evolved naturally. However, as an industry we also need to maintain and further improve our efforts to ensure we continue to make strides forward when it comes to equality. I would like ensure the future of our company champions diversity and is a true representation of the society we live in, providing a place of inclusion and opportunity for all.”

We give the final word to Carrie Wootten, managing director of Rise, a global advocacy group that supports gender diversity across the media technology sector.

There is no doubt that the media technology landscape is more aware of the importance of a diverse and gender-balanced workforce. Many companies are developing their own internal programs or are committed to sponsoring Rise and our programs of work.

It was fantastic to see the amazing achievements of women across the media and entertainment sector at the Rise Awards last November, but while the awards highlighted the positive progress in ensuring there is a more diverse and gender-balanced workforce across our industry, it is evidently clear that more work is required, especially within the technical and engineering positions.

Gender balance across technology industries globally remains an ongoing challenge. According to Women in Tech, only 19 per cent of the technology workforce in the UK are women, with 77 per cent of technology director roles held by men.

Rise has been working on lots of initiatives to change these stats, but two stand out on this year’s International Women’s Day:

– Rise Female Leadership Report; it is imperative that our industry has the tools to help encourage and support more younger women to reach senior positions. As part of our ongoing strategy, in 2021, Rise launched The Rise Women in Leadership Report in partnership with KTN with the aim to help companies and individuals have a better understanding with recommendations into how the industry can encourage women to progress and reach their potential and succeed in leadership roles.

– Rise Up Academy; working with BT Sport, ITV, Discovery, Sky, Clear-Com and BlackMagic, we are significantly investing in young people to #inspire #educate and #inform them about pathways and opportunities across the media technology sector. Our aim is to reach 2000 young people by the end of the year through face-to-face practical workshops.

Investment is critical – these changes do not happen organically, we have to work and collaborate together to build the change we want to see. Please let’s use IWD22 as another step in ensuring this happens.

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