Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Women in Film and Television

A.  WOMEN IN FILM AND TELEVISION

  A1.  Women in Film and Television (WFTV) is a non-profit making membership organisation open to women with at least one years' professional experience in any aspect of the film, television or digital media industries. Founded in 1990, WFTV exists to protect and enhance the status, interests and diversity of women in the industry and aims to provide training and support for the professional development of our members. Since its inception, WFTV has established itself as a respected industry body, with a membership of some 700 women drawn from a broad spectrum of film and television professionals. We are also the only gender-related organisation in the industry and as such are the central mouthpiece and lobbying point for all gender issues, working closely with government and public bodies. WFTV (UK) is part of WIFTI (Women in Film & Television International), an umbrella organisation linking all other chapters in a global network.

  A2.  WFTV would like to address the first issue mentioned in the DCMS paper:

The impact upon creative industries of recent and future developments in digital convergence and media technology

B.  WOMEN, NEW MEDIA AND THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES

  B1.  Women make up over half the population and are an invaluable resource for the UK economy. It is, therefore, crucially important that their abilities and talents are used to their maximum potential for the future health and wealth of the UK. To exclude women from the digital world is to discriminate against them both directly in employment, and indirectly, as consumers and contributors to society.

  B2.  WFTV is increasingly concerned that women are being excluded from the new digital world, with resulting disadvantage for them, the economy and society. Large numbers of young women, as well as men, wish to join the creative industries but there is a notable shortage of women joining the new media sectors. A digital gender divide exists in both the employment and the purchase of new media products and unless steps are taken this divide will become a chasm in the future. The problem must be recognised as a matter of urgency in order to make sure that women are included in the technological revolution.

  B3.  There are few figures available about the gender divide in new media to give a real picture of the problem. Skillset figures for 2002 have some statistics about the number of women working in new media:


CD-Rom and other interactive media:
27% (of workforce is female)
Web Design and Development:
37%
Computer Games:
16%


  B4.  These percentages are low. In other areas of media, eg, Television (terrestrial) women make up a much larger percentage of the workforce—in some areas up to 50%—although there are notable sectors, such as technical jobs, where figures are very low.

  B5.  In the absence of more detailed statistics, the anecdotal evidence is that most women working in these new media areas are in production and project management rather than technical work, such as programming and development. Not surprisingly, computer games has the lowest female representation of all sectors. There is an under-representation of women in technical grades in television and we are concerned that this seems to be carrying over to new media.

  B6.  There are a number of barriers to the employment of women in new media which need to be overcome; these include lack of easy access to knowledge and equipment training, lack of role models and sometimes low levels of self confidence and motivation.

  B7.  Recruitment into new media is often by word of mouth and if women are not part of the networks they have no opportunity to know about the jobs. Often new companies are set up by young males fresh from university who have had no contact with women in their field so if they did want to offer a woman a job they do not know any to ask. It has been found that online communities such as Untold and Digital Eve, set up by women in the fields of digital design and development provide non-threatening women-only environments in which participants can share ideas and learn—but we need more initiatives like these.

  B8.  As computers penetrate into the home, education and the workplace there have been several public and private initiatives in many European countries to include women into the world of ICT. SIGIS, (Strategies of Inclusion, Gender and Information Society) was a major European project during 2000-03 that analysed 30 of these initiatives. The aim was to provide a knowledge base to encourage the development of more effective strategies of inclusion for women, not only for the benefit of society as a whole but for the commercial success of ICT products.

  B9.  The case studies covered education, training, and support networks for professional women in ICT sectors; design of new products, including mobile phones; web publications and games for female audiences; experience of ICT and the meaning that they have for men and women in everyday contexts.

  B10.  The results of this research clearly showed that gender awareness should run through all digital inclusion strategies, in education, work or community based projects. There is a serious lack of "joined up policy" in most countries with respect to gender. Government projects to bring women into ICT work sit alongside wider digital inclusion efforts which are "gender blind".

  B11.  One of the more unexpected conclusions of SIGIS was that any image problem was more to do with the low relative numbers of women in ICT than a presumed symbolic association of ICT and masculinity. There is, they concluded, a need to make visible the growing numbers of computer enthusiastic and computer competent girls and women, and to send out the message "women are welcome here".

  B12.  "Shaping a Fairer Future", the recent report of the Women and Work Commission recommends several strategies to encourage women and girls into areas of work they might not have thought about. WFTV would like government to focus on the following to increase women's contribution to the new media economies:

    (a)  Research and map the employment of women in new media sectors.

    (b)  Encourage the establishment of women only networks.

    (c)  Encourage women-only training courses and mentoring schemes.

    (d)  Encourage the establishment of an online media resource for women to access knowledge, training and information.

C.  WOMEN, GIRLS AND TRAINING

  C1.  From the mid 1980s, the percentage of women professionals in computer science and engineering has actually decreased. To achieve a gender balance, action needs to be taken to recruit more women into higher ICT education. Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at Southampton University, believes that the gender divide begins very early on, with computer games which appeal to boys and exclude girls and boy-dominated technology classes. The place to attack the problem is at the start of adolescence when the gender divide really sets in.

  C2.  Boys have in the past dominated access to computers and computer science education. Computer games appear to be an important stepping stone towards becoming a skilled ICT user and much research shows that girls, and women, do not play with computers. Software designed especially for girls aims to attract more girls as computer users.

  C3.  E-skills UK's new project Computer Clubs for girls has shown that schoolgirls actually enjoy using new technology but they are interested in what it can achieve rather than how it works. A research study in the UK by Toshiba found that of 1,112 girls aged 11-18, one fifth wanted more access to technology at school and only 4% found computers boring. Yet the numbers of women in IT were actually falling. 84% of girls questioned thought that computer work was about administrative and secretarial jobs. Girls do not see themselves as working in IT and new media.

  C4.  As well as strategies to attract girls to the subject, careers advice is also important in opening girls' eyes to the diverse jobs available in new technology. At school teachers involved with careers advice can feel unfamiliar with the IT world so careers advice needs to be brought up-to-date.

  C5.  "Shaping a Fairer Future", suggests a number of strategies to challenge gender stereotypes in careers education and teaching. These efforts would be particularly important in encouraging girls into new media.

D.  WOMEN AS CONSUMERS OF NEW MEDIA

  D1.  Women are not only excluded from employment in new media but also from using the new media themselves. This has the effect of social exclusion from the digital society. They are often alienated from the way new products are designed and own fewer new gadgets then men. Technology magazines use marketing and imagery which is not attractive to women and the consumers and readership companies have in mind are men not women. Rather than being user friendly these products often make it a challenge for people to understand how to use them rather than making it easy for the purchaser.

  D2.  "Venus Rising", an initiative from Cybersalon and the Science Museum, recently explored these themes in a series of talks and workshops. At an event last year at the ICA, one woman developer working at Nokia talked of how development teams referred to "passing the mum test" when they wanted to imply that a phone could be used by an unskilled person. We need to generate more debate in this area in order to challenge the stereotypes that have developed.

  D3.  The SIGIS research showed that companies often only find out accidentally that women are an important and (financially) interesting potential target group for their products and services. Those companies who do recognise this market often consider designing for women to be a high-risk activity, because the wishes and demands of female users of websites, electronic games and projects are relatively unknown.

  D4.  Women should be asked what they want, contribute to the design of the products which will appeal to women and be encouraged to use them. Women designers should also be involved in IT companies in the design process. One size does not fit all in this market.

  D5.  WFTV concludes that women's consumer groups could usefully provide consumer consultation to companies about new products and methods.

F.  CONCLUSION

  WFTV would welcome the opportunity to talk to the DCMS about the issues which concern them in both new media and the film and television industry as a whole.

28 February 2006





 
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