A couple of recent studies have reignited discussion around gender inequality in the workplace - and society at large.
The Cranfield School of Management's report on (the lack of) progress when it comes to promoting women in the boardroom, showed that the majority of FTSE 100 companies have largely ignored the recommendations of the government-commissioned Lord Davies review: only 33 companies have so far set targets for the number of women they have on their boards. Days later, research from children's charity Plan UK suggested that the traditional roles of men and women are still ingrained in British society. Amongst the findings in the 'Because I'm a Girl' report, which questioned a thousand 12- 16 year olds, were that over a quarter of boys thought it is not their job to help with housework, while 31 per cent also believed female politicians are inferior to men.This prompted me to consider the role that gender has played in my life.
On reflection I've always liked a challenge. I wasn't a tom boy it's just men seemed to get all the exciting roles. I notice that when I go shopping with my two sons. The boys section is full of astronauts, superheroes and firemen costumes. The girls get to be fairies in high heels, preferably pink ones.
Understanding the role that gender has played in my career as a camerawoman and Director of Photography - traditionally regarded the preserve of men - is such a hard thing to evaluate. Where do you draw the line between why you have had certain successes or failures?
That said, I've also never worked in a completely female environment so I have nothing to compare it to. I do subscribe to the popular view that men are more streamline in their thinking, whereas women can multitask, but ultimately what you are dealing with at work is different personalities. I think how we react to our gender is dependent on our personalities. Of course I've encountered obvious clichés, such as being asked to film 'female' subjects because I am a woman. I consider this to be an insult to some of the incredibly sensitive male Directors of Photography out there, so who's being discriminated against? Last year I shot a documentary highlighting the very real issue of inequality in the workplace.
Some of it made for uncomfortable listening - and in particular how if a woman is raising an issue or making a point at a meeting, and is ignored, a man then restates it and everyone is paying attention and addressing the point. Perhaps I should have felt pleased that these facts give credence to those occasions I suspect it has happened to me, however it's disappointing. I don't allow these instances to limit me and my concern is always to ensure the best creative approach to a project.
I have felt very supported by male colleagues from within my industry over the years, which has been key to my progress and experience. Mentoring schemes supporting women actively from within the industry have helped give women the opportunity to further progress supported by men. Self-confidence without arrogance is key to surviving in the competitive environment of filmmaking, as well as bags of determination. I acknowledge that there are inherent differences between the genders and welcome these. However for the girl that wants to wear the astronauts outfit and the boy who might like to wear pink, life at present is always going to be more of a challenge.