Moving Forward: Representation Matters: NYWIFT at the Women’s Media Summit

By Kathryn O’Kane

NYWIFT Board member Kathryn O’Kane was among the six NYWIFT representatives who attended the historic Women’s Media Summit in Provincetown, MA, last month. She offers a recap, including the opinions and takeaways of fellow board members, and looks ahead at what’s next on the NYWIFT Huffington Post column. See an exclusive excerpt below:

On March 27, 2017, women’s rights in the workplace were threatened when the current administration revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplace executive order. The rollback repeals protections meant to create more equitable work environments for women including prevention of discrimination and ensuring equal pay. This administration’s hostile trajectory of federal policies towards women deals a significant blow to civil rights that has many alarmed.
At the same time, 102 women were converging on Provincetown, MA for the inaugural Women’s Media Summit. They tasked themselves with developing pragmatic and non-partisan solutions to the systemic gender discrimination that infects every level of the media and entertainment industry. The goal of the Women’s Media Summit was to develop a “White Paper” of tools and actionable strategies with benchmarks “to create an immediate shift toward gender equality among American storytellers.” Although the conference had been planned months in advance, its timing was now infused with a sense of urgency.
With that, on the tip of Cape Cod at the beginning of a rainy weekend in April, industry leaders and organizers across disciplines acknowledged that gender discrimination is not just a moral and legal imperative – it is a human rights issue. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
And yet, according to a new report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, the number of women directing the top 250 movies in 2016 actually decreased to 7%, a decline of two percentage points from the previous year. Additionally, women account for only 13% of writers, 17% of executive producers, 24% of producers, 17% of editors, and 5% of cinematographers.
As further proof of systemic gender discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is currently in settlement talks with the major Hollywood studios. The talks focus on unfair hiring practices. While the EEOC cannot comment on the details, it has been widely reported that after an investigation beginning in October 2015, the EEOC found that every studio engaged in discriminatory hiring practices against female directors.
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