A big thank you to the Sphinx Theatre Company who put in place a fantastic conference yesterday at The National Theatre - ‘Vamps, Vixens and Feminists’, to discuss the Gender Equality Duty that came into force April 07.
A feisty full house of women and men discussed the issues around the biggest change in sex equality legislation since the Equal Pay Act.
The Equality Duty has two main responsibilities:
- to promote equality of opportunity between men and women
- to eliminate unlawful sex discrimination and harassment, including against transsexual people.
And there we some galling statistics. Sphinx crunched the numbers and discovered that...
Out of 140 theatre productions, 98 were written by men, 13 by women and the rest mixed collaborations. Of these 140 productions, 97 were directed by men. Out of 1100 roles for actors over the same period, 677 were for men and 423 were for women. And out of the films produced in one year – 250 - 12% were by women writers with only 9% directing them.
However, the most shocking statistic came from Dr Katherine Rake, the Director of the Fawcett Society. She explained that the pay gap between men and women is still so great that compared to men’s salaries, on average, women are, over a year actually working for free from October 31st . If you’re a part-time worker, it’s even worse and you can expect to work ‘for free’ from the end of June.
The Writers' Guild TV Committee added their numbers. Looking at one month’s Radio Times, they discovered out of 179 programmes listed, 129 were written by men and 50 by women - 28% female and 72% male. In radio it was even worse with 37 male writers and 12 female writers – 24% women, 72% men.
To examine how we change this status quo, Baroness Prosser of Battersea OBE (Deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Committee) introduced the event with Oona King (ex MP and Head of Diversity for Channel 4) chairing.
There we several exciting sessions, broken down into disciplines.
Director Lucy Pitman-Wallace (Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2003) was in a director’s discussion with Giles Croft, (Artistic Director of Nottingham Theatre) and Janet Suzman (award winning actor and director).
Dr Katherine Rake talked to Beatrix Campbell (the acclaimed journalist and playwright), Kate Kinninmont (Chief Executive of Women in Film and Television) and Jean Rogers (Equity’s Vice President).
Dr Viv Rogers (Professor in Theatre Studies at University of Manchester) also talked to Bea Campbell about female stereotyping and much lauded actor Kate Buffery discussed the lack of complex roles for women.
Commissioning drama from women writers, ensuring complex, exciting and challenging parts for women was discussed by BBC Executive Producer Hilary Salmon and Head of Drama at ITV Laura Mackie.
Myself, Tanika Gupta (White Boy, Sugar Mummies) and Colin Teevan ( How Many Miles to Basra, The Seven Pomegranate Seeds) talked to David Edgar about the difficulties that writing for women can entail.
The whole event was at turns depressing, uplifting, empowering and hilarious and I really hope something positive will come from the fabulous energy created by so many intelligent and sparky women and men who know the only way to change anything is to shout out and be heard.
And looking around the packed theatre, thinking of all the experience and talent in the room, I wondered why we didn’t just all collaborate to make shows we want to watch with people we want to work with. As the old saying goes…if the lobster was smarter, she’d know that if she collaborated with the other lobsters in the pot, they might all stand a chance of getting out alive.