Women in Film after Brexit
With the Brexit deadline extended, we are finally approaching the official Brexit Day on October 31, 2019. With a “soft” or “hard”, a no-deal or no Brexit at all very much still on the table, all scenarios pose detrimental effects on the UK as a whole, including women in the film and television industry. Many human rights organisations and activists fear that the immigration proposals mentioned in the skills-based immigration White Paper could have harmful consequences on emerging women in British businesses and various industries.
The White Paper and the proposed deal, developed by former Prime Minister, Theresa May, involve stricter immigration laws for EU nationals, in particular, the General Work Visa. This visa grants non-UK nationals the right to work in the country. However, in order to obtain this visa you must have a minimum annual salary of £30,000.
This requirement threatens the future of several upcoming females in the film and television sector, as they tend to take on smaller positions, such as runners and assistants, to kick-start their career. These jobs are typically low-paid, making them ineligible for working in the UK.
To make matters worse, these “low-skilled” jobs are mainly dominated by women, with only 26% of women being producers, 21% editors, 16% writers, 8% directors and just 4% of females being cinematographers, according to a 2018 study from the centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
UK film organisations, including distributors, exhibitors and post-production houses, disclosed data from 2018 that showed shocking gender pay gaps between male and female workers. Disney revealed that men earned 20.9% more on average than women, with Warner Bros Entertainment UK showing a gap of 25.3%, in favour of men. Columbia Pictures, which runs Sony’s UK film and TV operations, revealed a gap of 25.6% and Universal owner NBCUniversal, a gap of 7.9%.
These figures indicate that hard-working women are most-likely to suffer from the work visa requirement than male filmmakers in the film and television sector, allowing the number of women in the industry to drop even more.
The human rights organisation, Women’s Budget Group (WBG), fears that any Brexit scenario could negatively impact the human rights legislation that prohibits gender discrimination and unequal pay in the UK, protecting women across all industries. While the legislation be implemented into the UK law with the proposed withdrawal bill, it is yet to be confirmed if it will definitely be passed by the Parliament.
Nonetheless, the UK relies heavily on EU labour, which also threatens the future of the UK’s place in the global film industry. The UK’s departure from the EU was mainly driven by the intention to decrease immigration and EU nationals from entering the country to find work and/or settle down. However, especially the UK’s capital is a hotspot for aspiring filmmakers, with London’s film and television industry serving as a great starting-point for film careers and building key relationships, due to its diversity.
As we approach Brexit Day, things remain uncertain and rules are subject to change, but there are still growing concerns about the career of upcoming female filmmakers, especially if there is a no-deal Brexit. The ongoing gender pay gap and the extreme work visa minimum-salary requirement threaten our place in the industry, which we have worked so hard for.
But this shouldn’t demotivate us. Instead, we should empower each other to hustle even harder, showcase our talents to the world and earn the recognition and respect we deserve in our careers. It is when we step out of our comfort zone, do the best we can and never give up that not even a set of laws can tell us “we can’t”.