The theme to this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8th is ‘Inspiring Change’. In today’s inter-connected, global and 24/7 world, change is a constant; and while I’m hesitant to resort to stereotypes, managing change and juggling competing priorities is a skill most women practice daily.
I’ve never understood the reluctance by some people to call themselves feminists; for me it’s central to who I am and how I operate. In the industry I work in – the creative industries – there has been substantial progress to re-balance the profile and contribution of women. Not only has the number of women working in the creative industries steadily increased, from 27% in 2009 to 36% in 2012, but there are also more and more impressive stand-out role models.
Many of the people working at the top echelons of the UK film industry are women – Tessa Ross at Film Four; Christine Langan at BBC Films; Amanda Nevill who heads up the BFI; and film producers Alison Owen, Andrea Calderwood and Elizabeth Carlson. TV similarly has women heading up great companies such as Elisabeth Murdoch, Founder & Chairman of the Shine Group; however, although we have Jay Hunt Chief Creative Officer at C4, we’ve yet to have a woman leading any of our major broadcasters.
There are many other examples across the breadth of the creative industries, including architect Zaha Hadid; Danae Ringelmann, Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Indiegogo; Publisher Gail Rebuck; Siobhan Reddy at Media Molecule; Angela Ahrendts of Burberry; global brand Anya Hindmarch; and Creative Director Amy Morgan at Beggars Music.
This role call is important because these businesses not only generate significant revenues for the UK economy – they’re worth a massive £8m an hour and growing at a rate of 10%, are out-performing all other industrial sectors of the UK – but they also define our culture and the representation of the UK on the global stage.
Women need to be in leadership positions and across all business operations in the creative industries, so that they can shape these important drivers of our culture, society and economy. And here we still have much work to do. The number of women gamers, for example, is growing fast, yet only 14% of the video games workforce is female. Within music there is a paucity of women across the businesses; yes there are excellent strong performers; female PRs, video directors and some managers, but an absence at the very top echelons running music companies.
Commercially it is crucial to have a diverse workforce. Ensuring that women have equal input to shape the products and services we consume and which enrich our lives is plain common sense. Women buy 50%, if not more, of all the stuff we make and the content we consume.
As importantly, is the crucial role women play in shaping popular culture; what we watch, listen to, interact with and play is utterly intertwined with who we are. Our personal and political personas are no longer so separate – the lines have blurred. Very few of us enjoy the lives of previous generations when there was home and work; where we were off and then on. We’re “on” all the time and the digital world has made everything a personal experience – work is there at the touch of a button, and so is our personal life. There are fewer and fewer divisions between commerce and culture – the two inform the other and it’s vital that women are able to make a full contribution across the board.
The creative industries create the content and technology that shapes our view of the world. Women in powerful positions can challenge the old fashioned representations of women and present more multi-faceted, honest versions of what we’re about. We do run successful companies, we do have more to contribute than purely a ‘female perspective’, and we do make meaningful, relevant and integral contributions to business, industry and the economy. It’s only by having more women in positions of power, who call the shots, that we will be able to have a grown up conversation that both relays the complexity of our culture and gives us a greater bang for our buck.
Caroline Norbury MBE, CEO of Creative England