AFTER decades of male dominance, Hollywood's leading ladies are finally beginning to speak out on sexism, while women in the UK film and TV industry are already making moves to stamp it out.


In recent weeks, actors including Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Stewart and Anna Kendrick have all hit out at the "disgustingly sexist" US film industry, calling for support for more women directors, crew and protagonists.

While former Hollywood screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloff, now based in Scotland, has also criticised writers and filmmakers for "brutalising" women for entertainment.

Experts in the UK film and TV industry have now joined their battle cry - warning that if things do not change, the damage to the sector, as well as culture and society, will be huge.

Women in Film and TV (WFTV), an organisation which represents females in UK creative media, claims the industry is missing out on a huge pool of skills and talent due to gender inequality and discrimination.

While industry bodies such as Creative Scotland and the British Film Institute are making moves to redress the balance, leading professionals say the industry's set up of short-term contracts and long hours, teamed with rife ageism, pay gaps and double standards, are creating major barriers for women.

Research from WFTV reveals 50 per cent of women in the sector have experienced some form sexual discrimination, while Directors UK report that women make up less than 9 per cent of directors in the UK.

WFTV also reports that while figures show that more woman than men start out working in television, they are consistently paid less and tend to disappear from the workforce at a much earlier age.

Kate Kinninmont, WFTV's Scottish CEO, said: "More women than men enter the TV industry in their twenties, the women are generally better qualified academically and work longer hours, yet their careers do not progress as well as men's careers and they are often paid at a lower rate.

"Women make up more than half the population of the UK, so if women are being sidelined as writers and directors then the industry is missing out on a huge pool of talent.

"The only way we can tackle sexism and sex discrimination is by having a critical mass of women onscreen: women who are there because of their expertise and talent.

"We need to establish more women behind the cameras too, from writers, cinematographers, directors and technicians. Surely it's not too much to expect that people in the 21 century are hired because of their skills and talents rather than their gender.

"Just as we need more women in the boardroom, so we need more women on the studio floor - for the benefit of the audience. What we see on our screens should reflect the real world and we need both men and women to do that."

Research from WFTV in 2012 showed that many of the biggest shows on TV - including Broadchurch, Dr Who, Poirot and Mr Selfridge - have no women directors, and while others boasted one or two, they had directed few episodes.

However, many of these programmes are produced by women because, according to Ms Kinninmont, "producing is seen as a 'nurturing' role, guiding and supporting, being like your mum".

A report published last year by Directors UK, Who's Calling the Shots?, also shows that, as well as women being locked out of certain positions, they are also struggling in certain genres including drama, comedy and entertainment.

While women are more likely to direct factual output, they also more restricted to programmes to do with body issues, food, or homes.

Delyth Thomas, vice-chair of Directors UK, whose directing credits include The Bill and All at Sea, also warned that instead of improving, inequality in some genres has actually worsened - to the detriment of the industry.

She said: "Film & TV, as the most consumed cultural product and accessible art form, both influences and is shaped by society and everyone who lives in it.

"The lack of women making film & TV means that the voice, perspective and story of half the population continues to be under-represented with half the audience not being served fairly.

"It is really important that female interpretation of stories and female creative vision is represented through the employment of women directors, writers, actors etc.

"TV reflects society and society's attitudes and should do so both behind and in front of camera."

One of the big issues facing women is the prevalence of short-term contracts and unsociable hours within the industry - leaving many facing a choice between having a family and pursuing a career.

Scottish filmmaker and mother-of-two Hope Dickson Leach, says she has struggled to juggle her career and family life, often being forced to abandon projects because she is unable to dedicate the time to them.

She said: "The statistics are there and the data shows that women are not represented as well as they should be.

"For me, the fact is it's an industry which doesn't allow for people to have families and this is the elephant in the room.

"The industry is so demanding that if you have any other commitments it's incredibly difficult to remain in it."

To try to combat this, Ms Dickson Leach has launched a campaign called Raising Films, aimed at raising awareness of the challenges facing parents in the industry.

"It's a very hard industry to change", she said, "It's very expensive and it's very high risk.

"People work incredibly long days, it's freelance, it's unpredictable, and it doesn't sit very well with family life and unfortunately a lot of family work is still done by women.

"It means that the only stories getting out there belong to the people who don't have these kind of commitments and that's not good for culture or society.

"With Raising films we're hoping to start a conversation about it."

Ms Dickson Leach suggests that a way around the issue would be for more help with childcare and more use of job-sharing in the industry to accommodate more women.

The other major issue facing women in film and TV is ageism, especially on-screen, where Liz Tucker - an award-winning producer and director - claims it is seen as acceptable for the "silver fox" older male to remain but not women over 40.

She said: "When you look at programmes, how many middle aged men do you see presenting compared to women? The number of women is much smaller.

"There's still a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way and there are still big problems when it comes to age."

Ms Kinninmont agreed, adding that different standards apply to men and women when it comes to age.

She said: "If you are a bloke, you can continue to present TV programmes in spite of being old, flabby, balding or just generally unattractive; yet for women totally different standards apply. "These standards are particularly obvious where you see presenting teams, for example Bruce Forsyth in his 70s and 80s paired with a glamorous young woman in her 30s.

"It's the old Hollywood fantasy of the male lead being paired with a woman half his age - and for years we have accepted that as part of the media culture.

"The first time a grey haired woman was chosen to present a factual series - the brilliant and dynamic Mary Beard - the critics attacked her for daring to appear on our screens without dying her hair or using make-up.

"There was a horrific hate campaign on Twitter by trolls whose expectations were that women onscreen had a duty to be decorative. Truly shocking in the 21 century."

Both Creative Scotland and British Film Institute (BFI) say they are trying to redress the balance for women, with a range of initiatives aimed at promoting equality.

The BFI's Three Ticks initiative means that films must meet diversity criteria to receive lottery funding through the BFI Film Fund.

The institute has also recruited a diversity expert to ensure women, ethnic minorities and LGBT workers, actors and themes are included in productions.

Creative Scotland has also recently published a review outlining the support necessary to address gaps in provisions due to inequality.

Ms Tucker added: "The females I know simply want to be fairly recognised for talent, skill and achievements, but unfortunately I think we still have a long way to go."