Mainstreaming of Media for the Advancement of Women

The New initiative for better gender parity in the media industry

Statistics talk loud for the non-profit organization Women in View after the results of two studies—commissioned by the BC Institute of Film Professionals with the support of Service Canada—highlighted the gender inequity in the media industry.

Gender parity, the bane of women filmmakers, set off the creation of SexMoneyMedia (SMM)—an international symposium held in Vancouver in October 2010. It led to a new initiative: Status of Women in Canada for Mainstreaming of Media Diversity (in association with Women in Film & Television Vancouver).

Jointly supported by academic and business partners, grants and donations, and funds from SMM, Women in View officially launched in September 2011 by Managing Director Marsha Newbery. The venue was the 13th Annual Martini Madness Party that summed up the Vancouver Women in Film Festival (VWIFF) at Republic Nightclub, where Newbery highlighted for me the fundamentals for the development of the initiative.

What is Gender Mainstreaming?

Defined in 1997 by the United Nations Development Program, Gender Mainstreaming is a strategy to prevent inequalities by identifying gaps between genders. Several organizations are involved in the studies and the new initiative:

Service Canada
Since 2005, this initiative of the Government of Canada responds to the demand for a less cluttered delivery of programs and services. It supports the labor research of the BC Institute of Film Professionals.

The BC Institute of Film Professionals
Its ten-year mandate ended in 2008 after serving as an alliance of professionals. It ensured to the BC film and television workforce world-class skills through access to high-quality education, training programs, with the support of all sectors of the industry (labor organizations, producers, suppliers, post-production facilities, public and private educational institutions).

SexMoneyMedia (SSM)
The international symposium organized by Women in View in 2010 addresses cultural, industrial, and economic opportunities and challenges for women working in film, video, television, digital media, and ICT (information, communication, and technology). Two labor studies—commissioned by the BC Institute of Film Professionals—showed the absence of women in leadership positions despite their remarkable achievements.

Women in View
The non-profit organization was founded in 2011 after the success of SMM. Its mission is to increase the diversity and participation of women in the media and entertainment industry and raise awareness of the positive impact of greater gender equity on business, content, and culture. Executive Director, Women in View and SSM: Rina Fraticelli.

Status of Women Canada (SWC): This federal government organization promotes women’s participation in the economic, social, and democratic life of Canada and works to improve women’s participation in society, with an emphasis on economic security and elimination of violence against women.

Women in Film & Television Vancouver (WIFTV) is an internationally affiliated non-profit society whose goal is to advance and celebrate women in the screen-based media industry.

Mainstreaming Media Diversity: This new mentorship from Women in View is the research initiative recently launched in Vancouver to increase the proportion of women working at senior job levels in the screen-based media industry. It is supported by a grant from the Status of Women Canada.


An Action plan based on two major questions

1. Why are the notable achievements of women in media disproportional to their statistical presence in leadership positions?

SMM acknowledges the exemplary successes of women who moved to the top level of what was male territory 25 years ago. Yet, Lynda Gratton—Director of the Lehman Centre for Women in Business at the London School of Business—indicated to The Economist that “the tipping point seems to be about 30 percent” for women’s presence as screenwriters, directors, and producers, in favor of men. The “leaky pipeline” replaced the “glass ceiling.”  At a certain stage of their career, circumstances push women off the career ladder.

As a result, men hold the leadership in content creation (writers, directors) and financial control, women facing systemic discrimination. It’s apparent in the labor force in general, and in the media industries in particular. According to the BC Institute of Film Professionals, down the crew chain, women occupy “taking care” rather than “taking charge” jobs.

2. How to achieve a more diverse, culturally, and globally relevant media landscape?

The digital revolution is transforming media industries with a great impact on economics, infrastructures, production and applications, workplace culture, and labor practices. This innovation might give women the opportunity to enter a more inclusive media culture, which led to further questions among which:

  • How does the intertwined nature of technology development and content development affect women’s success in digital industries?
  • How does the education system affect women’s ability to become leaders within the digital media culture?
  • Why did training and employment readiness initiatives not result in greater employment?
  • What is the relationship between diversity behind the screen and on the screen?
  • What are the responsibilities of labor organizations, corporate leaders, and government to give better access to female workers?

Other Implications of Gender Disparity

Since 2004, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has for mission to track the prevalence of stereotyping of female versus male characters in popular film and television programming aimed at children and families. It is “uniquely positioned to spotlight gender inequalities at every media and entertainment company.”

Children’s media consumption implies the importance of creating images and stories that empower young people “to become more than good consumers.” Media power should reflect the cultural and gender diversity of our societies, not only the bottom tier.

Since plots based on violence and negative gender stereotypes are scheduled at the primetime of mass media, such media consumption might increase the tolerance for violence in our communities.

The result could be that women are reluctant to work under those stereotypes, which could negatively impact the career of performers, directors, and writers. Furthermore, stereotyped female portrayals play a role in the age versus appearance standards set for women in the media. Yet, older women are the majority of online consumers and audiences.

Since women usually remain primary caregivers, symposium representatives from unions and guilds pointed to the importance of a supportive system (flexible and part-time) for childcare in an industry with unpredictable work schedules, a working model that systemically disadvantages women.

Note: 2010 statistics for Hollywood indicated that 15% of executive producers were women, down 2% from 2009.

Advancement of Women in Social Media and Online Computer Game Industry

Women play a leading role in social media as participants and designers/producers of social media. The work of Canadian Aboriginal women, in particular, has been significant in media and digital media arts. The SSM’s report indicates that according to Yahoo! the percentage of women accessing the web via mobile phones rose by almost 600% in the last two years, doubling the rate of the men’s increase.

Whereas sexism is still prevalent in computer games, the emergence of online games is changing the industry. Girls who grew up gaming might become designers. Women-owned studios are now producing entertainment games for girls.

According to Jutta Treviranus—Inclusive Design Research Centre Director—open-source software promoting the creation of user-generated content is an example of the tools that women could use to offset the discriminating diversity practices of existing powers. Her team is working on interface design for open-source tools for non-technical users.

Recommendations of the SMM Symposium as Focus for Mainstreaming of Media Diversity

Government accountability for the “demographic deficit” created by gender inequities in federal and provincial media investment

Long-term plan to identify gaps in research such as tracking women’s employment trends (lacking in Canada unlike in European countries)

Inclusive media strategy regarding cultural differences and the disabled.

Programs designed to solve the disconnect between training and employment and leading young and mid-career professionals to more senior levels.

A pilot program at the elementary school level with early intervention in mathematics and sciences education to girls in fields leading to advancement in technology design.

All participants from all related sectors of the media industry recommended that the SMM symposium become an annual medium “to build and develop, to track and assess, and refine progress and initiatives.”

Update on Canada Human Development and Gender Inequalities

The United Nations Human Development Report for 1995-2011 indicates that Canada moved up to sixth place in 2011. Whereas Canada ranks well overall, it dropped to 20th place when the index is adjusted for gender inequalities.


  • C. Institute of Film Professionals. “Please Adjust Your Set.” Fact sheet.
  • Lynda Gratton. “Steps that can help women make it to the top.” 2007.
  • SexMoneyMedia (SSM). Initial Conference Report and Action Plan. January 2011.

First published 2010

Mainstreaming of Media for the Advancement of Women
On-Set Make-Up Artists
(MCArnott/Permission Two4themoney Media Inc)