Caroline Fairchild of LinkedIn and Julia Boorstin of CNBC recently joined forces to create a conversation around “Closing The Gap” between genders within various industries. Boorstin describes the gap as “not only the pay gap or promotion gap, but the representation gap and the opportunity gap” and other nuances of the gaps that exist within our culture. Closing them, she explains, is not only about gender but is ultimately the right thing to do to help businesses be more successful. The first “Closing The Gap” report was released in June 2018 focused on Finance, a stereotypically male-dominated industry. The second report released last week quite fittingly focused on the heart of the #MeToo movement, Entertainment.
Gender disparity in pay as well as sexual harassment allegations among the Hollywood A-list are now, unfortunately, commonplace news. The thing that’s surprising, however, is that gender disparity goes much deeper and much broader than the A-list. The report surveyed over 1000 participants across various ages, genders and sizes of companies who self-selected their industry on LinkedIn as Entertainment. “Closing The Gap: Women in Entertainment” is meant to not only shine light on the issues but more importantly ask people within the industry what the root of these issues are and spark conversation around their solutions. Here are four things the survey teaches us:
The Top Sets The Tone
Something that most C-suite might take for granted is how important it is for them to invest in speaking publicly about discrimination and sexual harassment. The more inclusive the leadership, the more inclusive the culture. Half the respondents of the survey reported that the biggest challenge hindering women is an unsupportive or biased corporate culture. And 76% of women believe they would feel uncomfortable reporting harassment, which shows how the environment is not making that type of behavior feel safe or recognized. The importance of having leaders who care about creating a safe culture that supports women trickles down throughout the interconnected system of Entertainment through to directors, studios, actors and has a systemic impact on the entire industry. Last year 50 influential executives decided to take the matter into their own hands and formed a coalition with Women in Film and Sundance Film Institute based on research with the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at USC Anenberg to create a peer-to-peer program called Reframe. Reframe works with various executives within the media ecosystem to create more balanced hiring practices, identify and promote high achieving female directors, and create gender inclusive accreditation – all issues the survey shows are incredibly important to shift within the industry.
Diversity of Content Comes From Diversity of Decision Makers
While consumers drive the type of content that is made, the more important issue that goes unaddressed is decision makers of the content. The diversity of decision makers around content is imperative to the type of content created, green lit, hired, cast, and produced. If women make up more than half of the audience of the content, why wouldn’t they be in the room deciding what type of content is created? According to the survey, 68% of women believe that studios and production houses need to give more female directors and writers more opportunities. To address this exact problem, Reese Witherspoon created Hello Sunshine with an all-female C-suite to focus on content created for women, written by women, produced by women. In a parallel interview with Boorstin for CNBC, their CEO Sarah Harden explains “we’re not fighting for a seat at the table. We are creating our own table…not just in the stories we tell, but who’s in our writers’ room.” Their success has proved the importance of diversity of decision makers. Diverse production studios as well as new digital platforms are opening up new avenues for a new face of entertainment.
Both Genders Think There Is a Problem
Disparity in pay is against the law, yet the survey results show how few women think they are paid equally at their companies. And not just women but both women and men thought disparity in pay was a problem, which shows that this is a broadly accepted statistic. Fairchild points out that “It’s important to have male allies” and to work together to address this systemic issue. The solutions lie in genders working together to address the change necessary to create parity. Both Boorstin and Fairchild thought it was extremely promising that young men in the survey expect that things will change. Ushering in a new generation of inclusive leadership and working together to overcome it is essential for the change to happen.
Women Need More Networks
Executives describe Entertainment as an industry driven by relationships. Boorstin explained that some of her conversations with female leaders across the industry described how normal it was for men to go out for drinks or go on trips together and for women to feel left out of valuable networking. She also cited an example of a few female executives being very cognizant of being the only woman in the room and how uncomfortable that is. Women need networks of their own for mentorship and development. In fact, a third of the women believed that creating those opportunities could be a solution for fostering a more inclusive workplace. Summits like Women in Entertainment or organizations like 50 Women Can show the importance of creating and fostering these networks.
With these four solutions, let’s work together to close the gap in Entertainment.