The Directors UK Campaign to Tackle Gender Inequality

By 20 November 2015Listen, News & Events

The Directors UK campaign to tackle gender inequality has successfully built upon the report launched in 2014, examining the under-employment of women directors in UK TV production. Our report highlighted the challenges facing women directors and shocked the industry by revealing the true scale and depth of the problem. Using this evidence base Directors UK continues to develop its campaign to improve the ‘visibility’ access and opportunity for women directors working in TV.


Directors UK carried out its research in response to what we perceived as a disproportionately low number of women being credited as directors on UK television output. The research – which drew on our database of over 5,000 film and television directors working in the UK – confirmed that women are grossly under-represented in television employment levels, when compared to their male counterparts.


  • To increase the visibility of women directors across genres and at all career stages
  • To increase the employment opportunities and positively impact career progression routes for women directors
  • To tackle inequality in the industry by changing working practices and behaviours that disadvantage women directors because of their gender
  • To reach a target of women directors working on 30% of productions across all broadcasters’ programming output by 2017


On 8 May 2014 Directors UK published its report looking at the low levels of women directors working in British TV. This report was the result of detailed research into current employment patterns and looked at a decade’s worth of data. We found that despite women representing almost 30% of the TV and film directing workforce the percentage of women actually directing television output as a whole is far lower.

The data we used came from analysis of a sample of programmes broadcast up to 2012, coupled with the credits of Directors UK’s database of 5,000 directors, which represents the vast majority of directors working in film and television in the UK. In the report we look at these figures and how attitudes within the media industry are preventing women from reaching their full potential, and then make a number of recommendations for change.


Updating the evidence: In 2015 we have extended our data sample to broaden and deepen our understanding of employment patterns for women directors working in UK TV production. This will be supported by further research in order to qualitatively assess where broadcasters and production companies have increased the number of women directors being employed.


Our research has provided the first real insight into just how bad gender inequality is for women directors working in TV, and has highlighted the worst performing areas where action is most sorely needed. Using our findings, we continue to put pressure on the industry to lead the change necessary to balance an unfair system.

The campaign’s ability to draw on the knowledge and experience of Directors UK members has given it strength and credibility. By staying in touch with what’s really happening we have come up with real solutions to real problems. The campaign has worked in an open and flexible way led by the Women Directors Working Group, and has held open meetings to allow us to consult with the wider membership and stay in touch with the issues.

Members are invited to continue to contribute and help develop the campaign whether it be through the Women Directors Working Group, campaign webpage or by contacting Ali Bailey, Head of Campaigning. We would also encourage everyone to use the new member-only Employer Advisor site to share (anonymously if you wish) your experience of working for particular production companies. Employer Advisor could provide powerful evidence that strengthens our campaigning stories and drive change – but only if members use it!


Most recently the campaign has completed meetings with broadcasters and some of the larger production companies, to directly challenge decision makers, to discuss their plans for the future, and the progress they’ve made so far on gender inequality issues. Central to the campaign has been our tracking of the commitments they’ve made and pushing for the change that has been promised, as well as continuing to raise awareness and ensure that the under-representation of women directors doesn’t fall off the agenda or become lost.

The campaign continues to lobby key organisations across the industry, working to ensure that:

  • The commissioners and production executives responsible for hiring share responsibility for improving the employment of women directors
  • There is uniform, consistent monitoring of the freelance workforce throughout the industry
  • Standards of fair selection currently applied to permanent staff are extended to freelancers
  • Broadcasters and production companies work with Directors UK to develop initiatives that provide real employment opportunities and progress careers
  • Behaviours that disadvantage women directors are effectively managed through HR training and stop the risk-averse culture that keeps hiring the same directors


Channel 4’s Diversity Charter

Proof that our campaigning works and that we have already helped make real change happen! We’re very pleased to announce that Directors UK will be working with Channel 4 in improving the opportunities for women drama directors by developing a mentoring scheme with the broadcaster. This partnership initiative is part of a raft of measures announced by Channel 4 in their 360 Degree Diversity Charter, launched on Monday 12 January 2015. Following months of targeted activity on the back of our report, the women directors campaign has begun to deliver against its key objectives.

Channel 4 will also require the independent production companies they work with to deliver improved diversity both in front of and behind the camera, and will put plans in place to make their own commissioning executives responsible for achieving diversity goals. We welcome the invitation for Directors UK to work alongside Channel 4 in delivering these aims. Read the full Channel 4 report.

Beryl Richards, Chair of the Directors UK Women Directors Committee, had this to say about the Charter:

“We support the introduction of this diversity initiative by Channel 4, and for holding commissioners and production companies accountable. If broadcasters lead by example and demand that their commissioners and their production company suppliers improve employment opportunities for women directors, we believe that there can be a real and rapid improvement in the diversity of our programme-making workforce. It is great that initiatives are now being put in place towards achieving this and we are pleased to be part of the charter initiative on mentoring. What we now need to start seeing is real change both on and off our screens.

Click here to read more on Directors UK website

Click here to read about WFT’s Aims & Objectives