Achieving gender equality and promoting diversity in the European Audiovisual sector

Diversity and inclusion

Achieving gender equality and promoting diversity in the European Audiovisual sector

Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion

In 2018-2020 the European social partners ran a project assessing progress in the field of gender equality in the audiovisual industry. This project was a follow up action to the adoption of a Framework of Actions (FoA) on Gender Equality in 2011.

To assess progress, the project implemented a study that included desk research, an online survey, phone interviews and study visits in different EU countries. The research, while focusing on the representation of women in the sector and on correcting gender inequalities, also looked at the broader challenges of diversity, discrimination, and inclusion.

To pursue and deepen those conversations the European social partners launched in 2022, with the support of the European Union, a 2-year project in the context of which four roundtables will be organised.

The overall objective of the project is to improve the capacity of the industry to implement diversity policies. The roundtables will aim at clarifying concepts, highlighting practices and experiences, and at inspiring future actions.

First roundtable – February 2023

The first roundtable was held online and looked at better understanding what we mean when we speak of diversity and inclusion in the audiovisual sector.

What are the different dimensions of the terms, and are they understood in the same way in different national contexts? Why do diversity and inclusion matter for the European audiovisual sector, and what actions and strategies have already been put in place across Europe?

Two speakers helped us navigate those complex issues:
Marcus Ryder, Head of External Consultancies at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, UK;
Agnès Saal, Senior Official for equality, diversity, and prevention of discrimination at the Ministry of Culture, France.

The discussion was moderated by Francesca Scott, Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the European Broadcasting Union.

The exchange unpacked the question of ‘headcounts’ – who is working in our sector and who appears on our screens –  but also focused on the importance of bringing in nuances in what and how we count, as well as on how we analyse results. What reference numbers do we take when we set targets and monitor progress towards those targets? What roles and place do the people we count have in our teams or in the stories we tell? How many are in position of leadership? Which budgets do they manage, and when are their programmes scheduled?

Sometime small-scale datasets on a specific occupation and/or type of production can allow to overcome some of the challenges faced when collecting large diversity statistics. They can also help develop concrete strategies and actions with direct impact on the grounds.

In addition to discussing data, speakers underlined the importance of safe places, as well as of the fight against all forms of discrimination. Concrete initiatives were mentioned in the field of violence and harassment, as well as in diversifying leadership roles in sector productions and institutions.

Financial incentives to support organisations and productions to diversify profiles were finally discussed. They were praised as important tools, but with the need to now assess how to enhance take up.

The recording of the online roundtable with subtitles in English and French is available for replay.


Second roundtable – June 2023

A second roundtable took place in Paris, France, on Friday 2 June 2023.
The meeting was hosted by the French film school, La Fémis.

The second roundtable built on the February’s exchanges, taking them a step further.

After an introduction to intersectionality, it focused on the building blocks of a diversity and inclusion strategy, as well as on opening pathways to the sector.

The agenda of the meeting is available here in full in English and in French.

The day started with a keynote on intersectionality by Amrita Das, Didactics and communications specialist from the Centre for Teaching & Learning of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She outlined the theoretical underpinning of the terms, as well as its practical implications.

Intersectionality recognizes that identities are not singular but composed of multiple dimensions; each of which affects our lived experiences and social interactions. Mixed environments, to become inclusive creative spaces in which we connect through our intersections, need basic guidelines to establish trust and a sense of belonging.

Following the keynote speech, a first panel explored the main objectives and action strands of a diversity and inclusion strategy in the audiovisual sector.

Panelists were Alexandra Borchardt, independent researcher, journalist, and consultant from Germany, Marine Schenfele, Corporate Social Responsibility Director at CANAL+ Group and An Dezeure, Head of VRT JOBS (Recruitment, Talent Scouting, Internships) in Belgium.

The panel was moderated by Francesca Scott, Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the European Broadcasting Union.

Among the many elements highlighted by the speakers in this conversation:
– the importance to cater to more diverse audiences by monitoring and diversifying representation on screen but also by diversifying profiles in the teams;
– the need to review and open up new recruitment channels in partnership with organisations that have access to young diverse talents;
– reviewing leadership models, values and structures to ensure a change of culture really happens;
– addressing tensions and conflicts as soon as they appear to allow change and learning when dialogue is still possible;
– putting in place informal platforms for questions and exchanges, as well as formal reporting procedures when needed (accompanied by communication campaigns and training measures);

The second panel discussed initiatives aimed at exploring how to open up more inclusive pathways into the sector. Educational pathways were debated, as well as professional pathways during productions.

Speakers were: Nathalie Coste Cerdan, Director General of La Fémis (France);  Lonneke Worm, Cinematographer and Program Head at the Netherlands Film Academy; Ralph Buchter, President at Séquences Clés Productions (France) and David Collins, Producer at Samson Films (Ireland).

The panel was moderated by Daphné Tepper, Policy Director at UNI MEI.

To attract new profiles, film schools have taken different types of initiatives such as reviewing communications, selection procedures, the composition of selection committees, curricula, etc. Some results have been achieved but efforts should be maintained.

Managing the needs and realities of newcomers is another key challenge that schools are facing now. Opening up ‘safe places’ mediated by professionals to address tensions and misunderstandings, where everyone can learn (also teachers from students) is needed. Dedicated training schemes for students and teaching staff are necessary as well.

Addressing the place of disability, sickness, fragility and vulnerability in the audiovisual sector was also discussed. How to welcome professionals who live their lives with mental, physical or psychological disabilities or illnesses and have been excluded from the professional environment, either because they could not access the traditional education and professional pathways due to their disability or illness, or because of a life incident? Examples of solutions were given in almost all sector occupations and at no financial or creative costs.

Integrating newcomers with diverse profiles, skillsets and experiences in audiovisual productions were finally discussed and praised as an asset, especially if connected in one way or another to the overall project of the production. Funding for such initiatives really helps, not only to cover salaries and associated costs, but also to put a structure around the professionals in order to offer them training, support systems, etc.

Third roundtable – February 2024

The third roundtable took place online on Friday 2 February 2024. It had a focus on the diversity of representation on our screens.

The discussion was moderated by Dearbhal Murphy, Deputy General Secretary of the International Federation of Actors.

Three speakers gave their perspective and shared experiences from different angles.

Jenifer de la Rosa, director and scriptwriter, spokesperson of the Migrant and Racialized Women’s group at CIMA (the Association of Women Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media in Spain) was the first to take the floor. The Migrant and Racialized Women’s group was formed to voice the experiences and needs of migrant and/or racialized women in the Spanish audiovisual industry, who too often feel ostracized and whose creative contribution is not recognized. After creating the group and sharing experiences that were surprisingly similar despite the different backgrounds and origins of the members, the group received public funding to work with the University of Salamanca on a dedicated study.

The report published in 2022 highlights the difficulties of immigrant and/or racialized women in entering the industry for different reasons: administrative obstacles, the tied-knit professional networks that are very difficult to penetrate, the lack of role models / representation with which to identify, the stigmatization in terms of characters and roles attributed to migrants/racialised actors and the rooted sexism, racism and xenophobia in work places. The report identifies additional obstacles such as the masculinization of technical areas, or the very few female migrant and/or racialized workers currently in the industry. Access to funding should be facilitated for projects carried by migrant and/or racialized professionals as well as the access to technical and executive/power positions. Wages inequities also need to be further researched and corrected.

The importance of new points of views, narratives, and perspectives are however being progessively recognised as key in the Spanish audiovisual industry, and this will hopefully lead to structural changes and new opportunities. To contribute to those changes, CIMA is running different programmes such as CIMA Impulsa and CIMA mentoring.

Flavia Fazenda is an Actor and the Vice-Chair of the Race Equality Committee (REC) of Equity UK, the trade union representing performers and other creative practitioners in the United Kingdom. The committee started as an an informal group before becoming a committee. The scope of the committee has expanded over time to cover ethnicity and other protected characteristics. It also addresses issues  not legally recognized as protected characteristics – such as ‘accents’ – but which are however very important for performers, as they often lead to stereotypes or pigeonholing. One of the latest achievements of the Race Equality Committee has been an agreement on hair & makeup for black performers.

Flavia questioned the use of the term ‘diversity’ and highlighted the need to also include ‘representation’ in our thinking, basing our action on the need to ensure ‘equal opportunities and inclusion’. This would encourage decision-makers and gatekeepers to go beyond a ‘diversity box-ticking’ exercise and the related risk of tokenism, to thinking more deeply and in a nuanced way about whose stories are told and by whom.

Casting different profiles and giving equal opportunities to performers is key, but diversity of crew, creative and production roles are also key as ‘the cast is the consequence of the entire creative and production process’.

Normalizing the presence of people of all walks of like in different types of roles, avoiding stigmatisation and stereotypes, is also a way to influence positive and inclusive dynamics within our societies.

The last speaker of the online roundtable was Lars Damgaard Nielsen, CEO & co-founder of MediaCatch in Denmark, a company who developed DiversityCatch, a software that measures diversity in different types of audiovisual contents. The company is rooted in research coming out of the University of Southern Denmark, which remains a partner today.

To close the data-gap, and thanks to AI tools, DiversityCatch looks at visual contents (face catcher) and listens to audio contents (who is speaking? what are they speaking about?), and then produces insights into the data (shares of males/females, average age, Caucasian/non- Caucasian).

A second level of analysis looks at representation in the different types of programs (prime time, by genres, etc.) and depending on the topics spoken about (topics covered by women, by non-Caucasian speakers, etc.).

Finally the data collected highlights interesting trends e.g. in a radio program that invites participation from the audience, if the first caller is a woman, there will be more women calling in the rest of the show. Similarly in a televised political talk show, if the first person to speak is a woman, there will be more women taking the floor in the rest of the program.

A DiversityCatch European benchmark report looked at gender, age and origin of the people on screen for 25 European broadcasters over a one-month period.

DiversityCatch uses a AI technology that is ‘trained to react as a human’: thus it makes the same errors as a human might (‘think that a person with a lot of wrinkles is older than his/her actual age’). It uses a dataset sensitive to ‘fair representation’ and it is regularly tested and updated to avoid bias.

AI data collection is a strong tool but it requires sufficient additional human and financial resources for the analysis of the data, and to ensure that necessary strategies are implemented as follow up. Self-reporting by program developers should also continue to be used as complementary to AI tools.

The recording of the online roundtable is available for replay.


* Resources collected during or in preparation of the project roundtables

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Knowledge Hub, European Broadcasting Union (EBU)

Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, School of Media, Birmingham University, UK

Equity, diversity and inclusion in broadcasting, Ofcom, UK

Mission diversité et égalité du Ministère de la Culture, France

Observatoire de l’égalité femmes-hommes du CNC, France

Rapport sur la représentation de la société française dans les médias audiovisuels – Exercice 2021 et actions 2022, Arcom, France

Newsrooms that care : how diversity and inclusion will define the future of journalism, Report by Alexandra Borchardt, European Federation of Journalists, March 2022

Hello, channel highlighting LGBTQI+ creations, Canal +

vrt NXT, technology event organised by the Flemish public broadcaster aimed at young people

L’écran d’après / Screens of tomorrow, French initiative to question stereotypes and promote stories that highlight a more inclusive and sustainable society

Programme ‘Egalité des chances’, La Fémis, France
Egalité femmes/hommes, La Fémis, Paris

Fondation Culture & Diversité, France

La Cinéfabrique, France

Ecole Kourtrajmé, France

Netherlands Film Academy, Inclusive and diverse

Séquences Clés Productions, agence de production audiovisuelle, France

Pathways Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Fund, Screen Ireland

EFAD – EURIMAGES Diversity & Inclusion Mapping

CIMA 2022 Mujeres Migrantes y/o Racializadas en el Audiovisual Español – informe sobre la ocupación laboral y percepciones del colectivo en la industria

Diversity Index of European Broadcasters content, MediaCatch June 2023