‘Women in Creative Industries’ was an afternoon event, part of the Women on the World festival (WOW) which takes place each year since 2011 at Southbank Centre. The festival was founded by Jude Kelly, Southbank centre Artistic Director. The event was a full house attended mostly by women.
It begun with talks by six women in key positions within the creative industries who shared their personal experiences in their journey to where they are now: Sharon Ament (Director, Museum of London), Delia Barker (Co-Director, English National Ballet School), Louise Jeffreys (Director of Arts, Barbican), Zanny Minton Beddoes (Editor-in-Chief, The Economist) and Gillian Moore (Director of Music, Southbank Centre). This introductory panel was followed by two hours of parallel run sessions on Employment, Structures and Governance, Finance and Funding, Support, Role Models, and Changing Minds and Systems.
The day finished with a closing plenary where the insights from each session were presented by the session leads followed by dialogue to produce suggestions and actions to incorporate in future strategies – of companies as well as of personal professional development.
Overall it was a very interesting event, with focused discussions on specific problems women face in a male-dominated workplace and in a world where women feel they should adhere to specific media-produced prototype roles. Gender equality was the unifying theme underlying all discussions and most of the times the discussions were about issues that pertain to both genders. Of course, issues in the work environment that women face were flagged up and discussed thoroughly in many instances. However, the focus of the discussions, and this is something all participants adhered to, was not to analyse the issues of being a woman in a men’s world. More forward looking, the knowledge exchanges evolved around how to empower women, make them confident of their unique skills and strengths in several aspects of the creative workplace, especially by bringing the female perspective in mentoring (a new word – ‘womentoring’ instead of ment-toring), management and leadership. As a result, our goal for the day was to identify methods, tools and knowledge to help women realise their own potential and create a women’s working environment…and world.
We spoke about current practices in education that discourage school girls from following STEM courses when there is a demand for their skillset in the industry. We discussed about the inequalities in workplace relationships and salaries, the use of gendered language, the dominating image of women created by mass media, the guild we feel when we do not manage to be (and cannot humanly be) super-women combining and balancing personal and professional lives. We searched for best practices for challenging existing norms, changing minds and spirits of organisations, and providing opportunities for women to acquire a mixture of creative and technical skills from an early age. In the exchange about role models it was liberating to see the majority saying that the role models we should be looking up to is not only the successful women but also those around us in the close circles of family and friends. The knowledge exchanges were refreshingly supportive, empowering, and liberating.
The most valuable thing of the whole event, apart from networking with amazing women-role models, was the opportunity to listen to their personal stories of the struggles they had to go through, the obstacles to overcome, and the constant battles to win, both in their personal life and career. Especially the personal stories shared by the women in the first session were truly inspiring; highlighting the difficulties they faced in their journey, the supportive people they met in the process, both men and women, and the sacrifices they had to make. Above all they were an honest account of what every women faces in a male-dominated world which set the ground for the further in-depth discussions.
Keep an eye for next year’s event, and for the full Women of the World festival week.