Australia’s creative industries ‘entrenched in gender and diversity imbalance’ at the highest levels

An analysis of Australia’s film, television and radio industries reveals a serious gender and diversity imbalance at the most senior levels, a University of South Australia study has found.
A new paper published in Media International Australia warns of the dangers of a predominantly male, middle-aged, white workforce projecting their views on Australia, rather than reflecting its diverse population.

“On the surface, there may seem to be diversity, especially in terms of gender, but when it comes to seniority and job security this is certainly not the case,” says lead author Susan Luckman, a Professor in Cultural and Creative Industries at UniSA.

The most recent statistics from 2016 paint a bleak picture for women in the creative industries: men dominated every single senior role ”“ producer, director of photography, actor, radio and television presenter, film, television, radio and stage directors, technical directors, film and video editors. The only roles where women held more seniority was in artistic direction.

“Men still overwhelming dominate the senior roles in film, television and radio,” Prof Luckman says. “This has clear implications for a diversity of stories and voices.”

Men, for example, make up 80 per cent of the presenters on radio ”“ a medium that is listened to over breakfast by 86 per cent of Australians over the age of 14.

And while women outnumber men in radio journalism roles, a significantly low proportion are acknowledged as the content producers. There is also a 21.8 per cent gender pay gap in Australian broadcasting, the researchers found, and a serious lack of women over the age of 45 employed in radio.

The inequity in power and voice is echoed around the world, the report finds. Only 1.2 per cent of female journalists earn an annual income of more than $144,000, compared to 9.8 per cent of men. In 2017, it was also revealed that only one third of the BBC’s 96 top-earning talent were women and its seven highest-paid stars were all men.

Professor Luckman says the creative industries have “a notorious reputation for employing people on the basis of who they know”, rather than using a formal, more structured selection process based on skill and experience.

“Homophily ”“ managers preferring and hiring employees just like them ”“ only serves to replicate and reinforce the existing lack of diversity,” she says.

In the absence of formal recruitment frameworks in the creative industries, stereotypes about women, older people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and disabled people are rarely challenged.

Prof Luckman says it is worth noting that some key stakeholders in the industry have genuinely sought to address the lack of diversity in broadcasting ”“ most notably the ABC, SBS, and Screen Australia.

“For profound change to occur, it will require a more diverse workforce at the top levels and a real commitment to challenging the culture. There are no quick fixes here,” Prof Luckman says.

The report, titled ”˜The devil is in the level: understanding inequality in Australia’s Film, TV and Radio industries’ is published in Media Industries Australia.

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