Gender Divide In UK Factual Exposed: Men Three Times More Likely To Direct Docs Than Women

Catching A Predator
BBC2's Catching A Predator: Directed by Liza Williams. Image: Minnow Films

Men are three times more likely to direct UK documentaries than women, according to damning research from the We Are Doc Women collective who urged quotas to address the situation.

Today’s Factual Television Survey Report, which surveyed 700 people last November, found almost three-quarters (73%) of directors/series directors were male.

Going down the chain of command this figure was reversed, with three-quarters (76%) of researchers female. The report stated that women are “more likely to work in, and spend longer in, lower paid editorial roles.”

Producers were also more likely to be female at 70% of respondents but only 2% of women said they aspired to be a producer, compared to 30% who want to go into directing.

The survey also found women were three times less likely to be offered a second directing role once they had been given a first.

The figures tally with the most recent research available from the UK-broadcaster backed Creative Diversity Network’s Diamond diversity project.

“This is reflective of gatekeeping in the industry that contributes to the persistent lack of diversity in off-screen talent across gender, race, ethnicity, disability and age,” said the report. “Until women are given a fair chance to direct the films that are most likely to earn award nominations and recognition for directorial voice, they will continue to lag behind men at all stages of their career.”

Men being “perceived as directors while women are perceived as producers” was highlighted as the main barrier from female respondents, along with “being a parent” and “the opportunity to progress as a woman in the industry.”

When male respondents were quizzed over main challenges, the third most common answer was “no challenges faced.”

“This is a highly gendered situation that has been allowed to go on far too long,” said one anonymous female respondent to the survey. “Women are completely sick of being offered to produce men’s films, do all the emotional labour and walk away with minimal credit.”

Delivering a wealth of recommendations, We Are Doc Women called on broadcasters, streamers and production companies to commit to a 50% quota of women directors across their factual output.

We Are Doc Women’s Recommendations

  1. For transparency, broadcasters and SVoDs should make publicly available the gender breakdown figures across key editorial roles within the teams that make their factual programmes.
  2. Production companies and channels should commit to providing mentoring, career development opportunities and technical training for women.
  3. Members of the factual television industry should promote progressive working practices to accommodate parents and carers.
  4. Broadcasters and SVODs should commit to a 50% quota of women Directors across their factual output and include this in programme commissioning requirements. Commissioning specs from broadcasters currently include quotas and/or guidelines on diversity and disability but exclude gender.
  5. Production companies should commit to a 50% quota of women directing the factual programmes they make.

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