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.

Fourth roundtable – April 2024

The last roundtable took place in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday 30 April 2024.
The focus was on ‘inclusive workplaces in the European audiovisual industry.

The first panel entitled Inclusive workplaces: “What tools to open the doors, enable access, ensure safe places, and transform decision-making?” was moderated by Sarah Diedro Jordão, DE&I consultant and podcast host based in Portugal.

Dr. Iva Krtalic, Head of Integration & Diversity of Content presented the key elements of the integration & diversity strategy at WDR, a German public broadcaster. At the core of the strategy is the understanding that efforts need to be sustained to bring more diversity on and off screen. In-house training raises awareness and allows the sharing of knowledge on the topic. Through the media research department, an extensive work is being done on monitoring and evaluating diversity and inclusion. From a journalistic perspective diverse newsrooms are key to ensure a diversity of topics are covered, as well as to counter stereotypes in portrayals.

The department of Integration & Diversity of Content at WDR is also a point of contact for WDR employees on intercultural issues. In addition to supporting the workforce, the department maintains the dialogue with the broadcaster’s decisionmakers and keeps identifying the diversity challenges that keep coming up such as the use of gender inclusive language.

The department has been working for over 20 years to diversify its workforce, especially by attracting new profiles and talent. With the rise of digital platforms where more diverse voices can be heard, it is essential for public broadcasters to keep the sector attractive and accessible to all. WDR offers training workshops and mentoring to attract diverse profiles in newsrooms, such as the WDR grenzenlos programme. However, diverse representation in middle-management and decision-making positions remains a challenge that public broadcasters still need to continue to actively work on.

Lahoucine Grimich, producer and co-president of Collectif 50/50, presented some of the key activities implemented by the organisation to push the gender equality and diversity agenda in the film & TV sector in France and beyond.

The Bible 50/50 is a professional directory promoting inclusion, parity and diversity. It gives visibility to female talent and/or talent from socially, ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds, as well as those with disabilities, so that they can escape discrimination and determinism. It is a tool to help recruiters put together mixed and equal technical and artistic teams, going beyond habits and prejudices.

Mentorat 50/50 is a 6-month programme that puts in touch a young person with a professional in the film and audiovisual industry. The scheme is aimed primarily at women and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or who are experiencing difficulties linked to their profile in their professional integration project. Each pair meets regularly (for a coffee or on a call) to discuss career plans, establishing a network, etc. The mentor also undertakes to show the mentee around his or her professional environment by inviting him or her to his or her workplace or to a particular event (e.g. film set, festival, film commission, etc.). The mentoring programme is supported by Netflix.

The Collectif 50/50 also acts as an “action tank” (rather than a “think-tank”), bringing solutions to policymakers, for more gender equality and diversity. It contributed, for example, to the implementation in France of a “bonus parity” for productions whose teams are gender balanced. A “diversity bonus” is also in discussions in France but faces challenges to its implementation.

Emilio Papamija is Director of Research and Director of Trans Representation at ODA Observatorio de la Diversidad en los Medios Audiovisuales (Spain). ODA ‘analyses the image projected of LGTBIQA+ individuals, racialized people, those with disabilities, and those with non-hegemonic bodies in Spanish audiovisual fiction with the aim of promoting change and achieving more responsible and diverse media’. It publishes annual reports based on the viewing of all Spanish-produced fiction (series and films) released in a year. The reports follow a feminist and intersectional methodology, with contributions of over 70 volunteers from a wide variety of gender and ethnic backgrounds, as well as through partnerships with institutions, festivals and other associations. Recently ODA published a report against Fatphobia, demonstrating in figures the scarce presence that dissenting bodies have on screen, and the stereotypes and discriminations that remain based on people’s weight. Based on their insights and expertise, ODA also supports the industry in becoming more inclusive, as more diversity off screen will transform what stories are told and how characters are represented.

Emilio Papamija advocates for an activist and political approach to diversity in the audiovisual sector. What is shown and what is not has a tremendous impact on the individuals and on our societies. He especially mentioned the many discriminations faced by transgender and racialized people in Spain, and how it is crucial to keep these voices heard and faces visible, while fighting against stereotypes in representation.

Luke Meany is Policy Executive at Screen Producers Ireland. He presented an overview of what is happening in Ireland in the field of diversity and inclusion, with a focus on the access to the in audiovisual sector of professionals with disabilities. In Ireland, like in other EU countries, there is legislation in place to ensure that workplaces are welcoming places for people with disabilities. The Employment Equality Acts oblige employers in all industries to take measures to meet the needs of disabled people in their workplaces. Employment rates of people with disabilities are however still low in Ireland, also in the audiovisual sector.

Screen Ireland, the national screen development agency, places a lot of emphasis on ensuring that the industry is investing in projects and initiatives that are supporting accessibility.

Screen Ireland facilitates a crew database, where production companies can make crew calls. This brings more transparency to recruitment in the industry and can give interested people with disabilities an opportunity to get a direct link to productions.

The Pathways funding provides up to 20.000€ per project for productions that specifically focus on inclusive work practices. The fund aims to increase access to the sector for minority and underrepresented groups, including individuals with disabilities. To date, this initiative has provided over 90 individuals from minority groups with work opportunities across Live Action and Animation. Productions are increasingly forming partnerships with underrepresented communities to attract talent and ensure a diverse and inclusive crew base.

The Media commission, Ireland’s broadcasting authority, recently carried out a large-scale consultation process to create a new Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. One of the core functions of the strategy is to promote access of people from diverse backgrounds, including people with disabilities, into the industry.

Another program called “Screen Stories: Getting Disabled Writers in the Room” is a collaborative effort between the National Talent Academy for Film & TV and Tilting the Lens. The program is open to emerging disabled writing talents in Ireland, including those with physical, learning, sensory, mental health, neurodevelopmental, neurological, communication, and/or medical conditions. The program is a 6-month course that seeks to address the existing barriers that hinder disabled writers from fully realizing their potential in film and television.

The second panel entitled Diversity, Equity & Inclusion : “Shall we start by changing the way we work?” had a German focus. It brought together stakeholders representing a variety of perspectives on the German audiovisual industry.

Elena Kountidou, Managing Director at Die Neuen deutschen Medienmacher*innen (New German Media Makers) presented the nationwide network of journalists aiming at good reporting with a diverse media workforce. It was created 15 years ago by journalists with and without migration backgrounds. With time, the fields of actions have been broadened through more diversity and mentoring programs.

In 2021, the New German Media Makers released a Diversity Guide. It offers a comprehensive guidance to support media outlets on their journey to greater diversity. Among the topics covered are: the arguments and facts for more diversity, why media needs diversity to survive, the prejudices in dealing with various media personnel, why diversity is a management issue, how to find and retain the best talent, checklists and best practice examples. It also showcases best practices from other countries in Europe, with the UK and the BBC as a leading example. The guide is made available for free to an organisation only if the editor in chief and /or managers agree to meet up for an hour to discuss and be presented with the guide. Elena Kountidou insisted on the importance of having decision-makers on board. As the sector faces a shortages in skilled labour, it is also crucial to keep the sector attractive, safe and to keep seeking for new talents.

Djamila Benkhelouf is the referent in Diversity Management at ARD Degeto Film GmbH. Diversity is understood by the company as an ‘interface between the inside and the outside’. More diverse decisionmakers, managers, artistic and technical staff will create a more diverse representation on screen. It will also make work places more open, which will attract and permit to retain more diverse talents. In that sense, employers have a responsibility to promote diversity. A “willingness to learn” and to keep being educated on the topics of diversity and inclusion is also necessary across the teams.

Some of the key challenges when promoting more diverse workplaces and work practices is that, even though it is an unstoppable process, it is attacked by outside forces. Hence, it is necessary to find convincing arguments to continue promoting diversity, showcasing that it is not a simple ‘box ticking exercise’ or a matter of addressing labour and skills shortages, but a sustainable process towards the future.

Marina Fischer, is a psychologist/systemic counsellor at Themis Vertrauensstelle e.V., the “confidence centre against sexual harassment” for the German cultural sector. Themis was created in 2018 in the wake of #MeToo. It is supported today by over 30 industry associations, public and private broadcasters, collecting societies. It also receives donations from streaming providers. The team currently consists of 7 employees, lawyers and psychologists. As an independent external contact point, it offers a free and independent counselling service for people from all trades in the cultural sector on discrimination based on gender and specifically on sexualised harassment and violence. In addition to counselling for those affected, managers, executives and employers can also receive confidential and individual advice on incidents and complaints that have come to their attention. Another pillar of activities is related to prevention and sensitisation. Seminars for employers, employees, confidential counsellors and equal opportunities officers are organised by Themis, who also publish information material.

Themis’ mandate has a focus on gender-based discrimination and violence. An intersectional lens is however adopted when relevant in counselling practice and prevention services taking into account possible multiple discrimination and individual life situations. Intersectional vulnerability in power dynamics in the cultural sector is frequent on many levels in addition to gender discrimination like in relation to age (people in early career phases, but older age is also a vulnerability factor, especially for women), position in hierarchies or specific professions that are less valued and therefore in a more vulnerable position (this often includes professions that are taken up by more women, e.g. make-up or costume design), migration history and racialisation.

Prevention work on sexualised violence should be made compulsory for all hierarchical levels in an organisation. Trustworthy contact points (including external ones such as Themis) must be created and staffed by trained professionals. The staff of contact points and prevention services should be diverse, in order to take into account as many realities of life as possible.

Björn Bohning is the CEO of Produktionsallianz (The Alliance of German Producers in Film & Television). The promotion of diversity and inclusion in productions has to be a permanent process. Through codes and standards, as well as industry ‘awareness’ seminars on how to tackle the issue of diversity and inclusion, the aim is to promote more welcoming, inclusive and diverse productions. An open working culture must be supported by employers and take shape on the ground.

Matthias von Fintel, Head of Media, Journalism and Film at ver.di underlined the need for all professionals involved in a production to have a common learning process for an open working atmosphere. As other panellists, he insisted on the fact that the promotion of diversity and inclusion strategies must be recognised, valued and supported by the leaders and decision-makers. This requires ‘a real change that comes along with a change of point of view’.


* 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

WDR – Diversity, Equality and Inclusion
WDR grenzenlos

Collectif 50/50 Bible 50/50Mentorat 50/50

ODA Observatorio de la Diversidad en los Medios Audiovisuales

Screen Stories : Getting Disabled Writers in the Room

Neuen deutschen Medienmacher*innen
Diversity Guide for Media

Themis Vertrauensstelle e.V, the “confidence centre against sexual harassment” for the German cultural sector