Problems with racial and gender diversity do not reside solely in the television industry, but it is a fertile spot to highlight issues and inequalities that also exist in society at large. For many years, roles from showrunner, director, writer, and even crew members were given to men. However, thanks to a push for diversity in recent years by creators, producers, and fans, in addition to networks and production funds implementing initiatives, the Canadian TV industry has been able to slowly move the needle closer to true gender parity. Increased diversity behind the scenes, both in women and people of colour, will only add to the rich tapestry of stories being told.
Big changes don’t happen overnight, but the past year has shown plenty of signs that signal positive things happening behind the scenes. CBC reported that it supported 62% female-led projects, where the majority of the key creative roles of producer, director, writer and showrunner were held by women, across all original English and French scripted and unscripted shows in 2018/19. Women also found success at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards as Moira Walley-Beckett’s Anne with an E won Best Dramatic Series and Norma Bailey won for directing the drama Mary Kills People.
While more and more women are working behind the scenes all the time, there are still many areas for improvement. The fifth Women in View On Screen report released in 2019 found that women – especially women of colour and Indigenous women – remain significantly under-employed on Canada’s film and television productions. The report also found that women’s creative leadership is key to unlocking gender balance and greater diversity. The 2019 report examined more than 5,000 contracts issued between 2014 and 2017 in television, and between 2015 and 2017 in film.
At The TV Junkies, 2020 marks the 5th round of our Women Behind Canadian TV series. Started at the end of 2015, the series was our way of opening the dialogue and keeping the discussion around the gender gap behind the scenes in the Canadian TV industry moving forward. With numbers worse then than they are now, there were still production companies, TV series, and networks who were making positive strides by hiring women and helping to close the gap. The question soon became, “How can more be done?”
The Women Behind Canadian TV series became a way to speak to the women who were on the front lines, who had success, and who had risen through the ranks. The thought process was that if we could at least talk to these women about their experiences in the industry, and ask what work they saw still needed to be done, then at least these points could be a start. What was their secret to getting to the top? How did they get their foot in the door? Hopefully, by sitting down and talking about their success and all the challenges they faced along the way, these discussions could help others looking to still break in or move higher in the ranks.
One thing we could have never imagined when we set out with the series was the sheer caliber of women that have participated over these 5 years. We’re very blessed by the conversations we’ve been able to have with so many talented women. The extreme honesty and openness of so many of them have blown us away, and we can’t thank every one of them enough for that trust. When women work together, our power truly has no limit, and we like to believe that every woman who has joined this series over the years has helped bridge the gender gap behind the scenes just a little bit further.
Women Behind Canadian TV began by talking to many showrunners, writers, and directors. However, as time has passed, a major goal has been to branch out and make the series more diverse. As part of that, there’s been a concerted effort to speak with women of color and women at many positions and many different levels in their careers. This year’s group of women is no different. As always, there are some writers and directors in the mix, but there are also producers, assistant directors, stunt coordinators, editors, and many more.
People working behind the scenes of our favorite shows rarely get the love they deserve. There are so many different positions that contribute to the success of any given TV show, and one of the biggest goals of this series is to shine a light on those crew members, as well as to get an idea of the work required of their position. It’s been an absolute joy to bring this series to life the last five years. Stay tuned to The TV Junkies, as we’re extremely excited about our group of women here in 2020 as well. Hopefully, in sharing these conversations, that gender gap gets even smaller and more moves toward true parity behind the scenes continue to take place.
Thoughts or comments? Share them below! Find all coverage of our Women Behind Canadian TV series here.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.