I was thrilled to get a chance to connect with Jill Golick, the Executive Director of Women in View. Jill is also the co-author of the 2019 Women in View On Screen Report, an in-depth report about working to achieve gender parity in the Canadian film and television industry. The report has some fascinating insights and is worth a full read through at the Women in View website.
Below you’ll find some great advice from Ms. Golick in our Q&A, including some excellent practical steps we can all take right now to help move the needle towards equality in the entertainment industry. If you are interested in learning more about Jill you can read her 2-part interview here on Ms. In The Biz as well.
You’re the executive director of Women in View, which just published its annual Women in View On Screen (WIVOS) report for 2019. The report has some interesting findings, what stuck out to me was the connection between female showrunners and gender balance in all aspects of production. Can you speak a bit more to that and the importance of having women in power positions?
When we began looking at the data we’d collected, the numbers were disturbingly low.
Women’s share of writing, directing and cinematography work in Canadian TV in 2017 was only 28%. For Canadian film it was only 25%. It was very depressing. We wanted to find some solutions; a route to achieving equity faster than the current pace. We knew that in other industries women in leadership roles was a game changer and we wondered whether women’s leadership had an impact in film and TV. In TV, the leadership position is clear – it’s the showrunner. So, we decided to look at the numbers through the lens of the gender of the showrunner. The results were startling.
When men showran, 14% of the writing, directing and cinematography contracts went to women. But add a woman to the showrunning team and women’s share of the contracts jump to 41%. And when a woman showruns alone or a pair of women showrun together, there is gender balance with women getting 53% of contracts. We call this the Showrunner Effect.
The more deeply we looked at the data the clearer it became that virtually all of the gains for women in TV over the last four years came from series showrun by women. Between 2014 and 2017, the number of contracts to women writers on male-run series actually dropped while on women-led series they more than tripled.
In the four years we looked at the 24% of series run by women, they were responsible for 48% of all directing contracts to women, 45% of all writing contracts to women and 70% of cinematography contracts to women.
If all series had women showrunners the industry would be at 50:50 today. Even if half of all series were run by women, we’d be much further ahead than we are now.
Leadership is also essential in building a more inclusive and diverse industry. When women of color or Indigenous women showrun, not only is there gender balance but far more women of color and Indigenous women work as writers, directors and showrunners.
What was the most positive piece of information that the WIVOS report revealed about where the industry is headed? What was the most disheartening?
The data on women’s leadership is definitely the most positive to emerge because it shows us a new and powerful strategy to achieving a more inclusive and gender balanced industry.
Traditionally when we tackle issues of inclusion, we focus on training, shadowing and internships for emerging artists. It’s a strange approach since all the data tells us that women are already better trained than their male counterparts. This strategy allows a few new women to sneak into the pool of credited talent each year. What our new research tells us is that we can make change much more quickly by focusing our efforts on getting experienced women into positions of creative authority. It’s a strategy of starting at the top rather than at the bottom. When women lead, more women work throughout the production. And when people of color lead and Indigenous peoples lead, more people of color and Indigenous people work.
The data on Indigenous women was definitely the most disheartening part of the Report. But at the same time, I was pleased that we were able to break out the data on Indigenous women and women of color and to shine a light on how terrible the situation is.
The report outlines “5 Steps to 50:50” – which I love! Can you elaborate more on some of the practical ideas for making a larger shift towards gender equality?
The 5 Steps to 50:50 are a set of recommendations largely aimed at broadcasters, policy makers and employers. With a little effort on their part, we could be at 50:50 tomorrow. All they have to do is follow these simple steps:
1. Commit 50% of creative leadership roles to women
2. Commit to the inclusion of women of color and Indigenous women
3. Set concrete measurable targets, make them public and report on the results
4. Open the doors to new and under-represented talent
5. Balance funding across men and women
But what if you’re not an employer? Sometimes we as individuals feel frustrated by the pace of change. So, in addition to the suggestions in the Report, I want to offer a few things that we can do as consumers and workers in the creative industries:
- Vote for an inclusive industry with your attention and entertainment dollar. Seek out productions led by women, including women of color and Indigenous women. Get out to opening weekends, buy movie tickets and digital downloads, binge watch on your favorite streaming services. Support women’s projects on crowd funding platforms.
- Rate and review women’s work. Male critics dominate the professional reviewing system and men tend to over contribute to the crowd-sourced reviewing platforms like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Your contribution can help swing the balance back in women’s favor.
- Amplify the voices of women creators – especially women of color and Indigenous women. Share their posts and news in social media.
- Share your experience and power. Co-write or co-direct with other women so they can get that all-important first credit and the credibility that comes with it. Mentor, go for coffee, offer advice and be a supporter of other women’s talent.
- Lose your scarcity mind set and recognize that a more inclusive industry will also be more profitable and offer more opportunities for all. So many of us fear that we’ll lose our place in a more diverse workplace, but it’s time to realign your thinking. In fact, including underrepresented voices will open up new audiences and new markets. The demand for content is exploding and we all want access to stories we haven’t heard before. Inclusivity can mean more opportunity for all.
You’re a successful writer-producer yourself. What did you find was the most important piece of the puzzle for you as a woman breaking into the industry?
My experience breaking in isn’t relevant today. I came into the industry at a different time. I was often told I was being hired precisely because I had a womb. I often heard things like “we need a girl on this” or “we’re looking for a woman”. I was fortunate to be one of the few women that got hired and that my chosen discipline was writing. Women writers have always had a bigger share of the work than women directors or cinematographers.
I have three pieces of advice I’d offer to emerging artists today. First, develop your voice and tell your own stories. As we move away from episodic television into a world of arced storytelling, individuality is increasingly important. Second, make stuff – indie features, web series, podcasts, shorts. You’ll learn a ton and start to build an audience who respond to your work. Thirdly, cultivate a cohort of like-minded creators. They can be your support system, sound board and creative collaborators.
What’s the biggest thing one woman in the entertainment industry can do to help another?
Look at the women around you as your allies and not your rivals. Work for women used to be so scarce that women were competing with each other for the one female-designated seat at the table. Today we must be each others allies and supporters. It is a hard business – we all face failure and negativity. We need to be kind and supportive to each other. We’re all more likely to succeed if we work at it together.
What is your hope for the 2025 WIVOS report?
I hope that women’s share of work will have reached 50% long before then and that by 2025, we’ll be documenting the success of our inclusivity initiatives – that women of color will be working in unprecedented numbers and Indigenous women will be participating on all kinds of projects and telling their own stories. I also hope that we’ll have figured out how to report on the participation of people who identify as neither male or female and that those individuals will be comfortable and happy working alongside everyone else. Of course, I won’t have time to write that report because I’ll be too busy watching all the fantastic productions that no-longer-under-represented talents are creating.
Please let us know how our Ms. in the Biz reader and writers can support your cause!
The most important thing that Ms. In the Biz readers can do is stay optimistic. Keep telling your own stories, keep supporting other women, keep being inclusive, keep pushing for change and don’t lose hope. The climate is right for change. We can get there if we just keep working at it together.
Jill Golick, Executive Director, Women in View – 2019 Women in View On Screen Report Co-author
Jill Golick is a creator and showrunner, a teacher and an activist. As a writer-producer, she has worked extensively in children’s television (Androids), prime (Blue Murder), soap (metropia) and digital (Weirdwood Manor). As a multiplatform creator, Jill has created, written, financed and produced four original, cutting-edge series, including the internationally-acclaimed digital detective series Ruby Skye P.I. Her creative work has been rewarded with two Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Awards, a Canadian Screen Award, a Youth Media Award of Excellence, a Banff Rockie, and the grand prize from the LA-Marseilles WebFest, among others. As an activist working on bettering the lives of artists, she served as president of the Writers Guild of Canada from 2010-2018. Today, she acts as Executive Director of Women in View, fighting for equity in Canada’s film and television industry. She teaches about TV series creation in the era of Netflix and mentors screenwriters at every career stage. In her spare time, she is developing characters for conversational user interfaces, writing a musical and creating new TV series for both adult and children’s audiences.