To mark International Women’s Day this month, the University of South Wales (USW) hosted a panel discussion from leading experts in the TV and film industry in Wales, celebrating the successes and addressing the challenges of working in the sector.
Panellists included Amanda Rees, Director of Platforms at S4C; Loretta Preece, Series Producer for Casualty; and Dr Helen Thomas, Research Fellow in Screen Skills at USW.
The lively, thought-provoking discussion, chaired by Ruth McElroy, Professor of Creative Industries at USW, covered topics such as barriers to career progression, the benefits of diversity in the workplace and the importance of representation in the media.
Amanda, who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years, said: “We as broadcasters are in an incredibly privileged position because we can represent women in both our culture and our programming.
The two places I think women are now under-represented within media production are at the very high end – senior executive level – and also in the grassroots skills that we need to be able to tell stories and, more importantly, to get our stories out there to be heard.”
Dr Helen Thomas, who recently worked with Prof Ruth McElroy on the Screen Survey Wales report in collaboration with Creative Wales, said that the gendered language used in the industry – and society as a whole – needs to be challenged.
We often hear words such as ‘bossy’ used to describe women, whereas the equivalent term for men seems to be ‘assertive’ or ‘confident’ – and that seems to have been the norm for such a long time. Women often feel as if they can’t speak up, or be taken seriously, without making a show of themselves, and that sort of environment has to change.”
Loretta Preece, who has worked for the BBC for two decades and has championed the representation of people from all walks of life in major dramas such as Casualty, talked about the issue of abuse towards actors – particularly women – on social media.
“Part of my job as series producer is dealing with the kind of grief that our actors get, and the difference between women and men, and how they are responded to, is appalling to see,” she said.
“What’s even worse is that women of colour face this abuse three or four-fold. The kind of comments they have to put up with is horrendous, and is understandably off-putting for women when putting themselves in the spotlight.”
The panel also discussed how recent initiatives around flexible working hours and childcare facilities have transformed the workplace culture on major productions such as Havoc and Bridgerton, paving the way for more to be done in all areas of the TV and film industry.
Prof Ruth McElroy added:
“Often it's about making sure women have the confidence to come forward, to take creative risks and to take the opportunities that they deserve.
“Diversity in the workplace is critical to success; it’s how you increase productivity, how you collectively achieve great things, and how you can work towards a better working life as a result.”