Gender bias can be described as prejudice or discrimination against one gender. It can describe discrimination against men or even against women. However, in todays world, most victims of gender bias and prejudice are women. Gender bias has been attributed to social norms, rules, and attitudes that encourage one gender to devalue the other (Caprino, 2016). There have been public decisions on the need for gender equality, and these discussions have dwelt on the whether the equality is possible or even wanted. Although the gender policy implemented in the Australian film and gaming industries has had a significant contribution to the promotion of gender equality in the industry, it has not been effective enough to seal the gender gaps and inequalities.
Harris (2016) accuses policymakers in the Australia film industry for developing weak policies aimed at combating gender inequality in the industry. These weak policies have been blamed for the low number of women playing key roles in the film industry. According to Harris (2016), only a meagre 32% of producers in the Australia film industry are women with women directors consisting of a mere 16% and 23% for women scriptwriters.
In an attempt to correct the gender inequality in the industry, Screen Australia has come up with the Gender Matters Initiative. This initiative consists of two major streams; Brilliant Stories and Brilliant Careers. Brilliant Stories was created to fund films guided by female creative teams with cash up to A$ 100,000 for works of fiction or A$50,000 for TV scripts. Brilliant Careers aimed to fund organizations that offered opportunities for professional development for women in film industries through the organization of seminars workshops and business model that promoted the works of female films producers to female audiences with funds up to A$ 250,000.
However, it is vivid that the Gender Matters Initiative has key flaws that prevent it from serving its intended purpose. The first major flaw is that the initiative has segregated the push for gender equality into one program instead of covering the gender disparity in all Screen Australia's projects (Harris, 2016). There are key issues with the classification of films whether they qualify for funding from Gender matters Initiative or not. Female directors or writers have disagreed with the "three-tick-test" criterion which is used to determine whether a film is eligible for funding under the initiative. The criterion clarifies that a film can only be funded by the initiate only if three of the key creative positions such as producer, director, protagonist, and writer are occupied by women. It can be argued that the criterion consists of gender separation and excludes women who are willing to work with gender-inclusive creative teams. The tendencies of female directors to work with female producers also make this three-tick rule unnecessary. However, Screen Australia argues that if it removed the rule on the eligibility of projects for funding, the Gender Matters Initiative would lose its credibility and its ability to support female producers.
While Australia is struggling to implement adequate measures to fight gender disparity in the film industry, it can borrow some guidance from other countries film agencies that have made more progress. Canada's National Film Board (NFB) which funds documentaries and animations is targeting full gender parity and has pressurized the other Canadian funding body, Telefilm, to direct half of its funds to female-led projects (Harris, 2016). 50% funding in the film industry is more effective than funding provision of mentorship to a small number of women. It also promotes equality in all aspects of the film industry and acts as a form of punishment against men in creative roles who avoid hiring women. Screen Australia can learn a lesson or two the NFB on appropriate ways of funding the film industry in a gender inclusive way.
Even locally, some organizations have developed an appropriate policy in the fight against gender inequality. The Australian National Guild has adopted policies that support gender parity in film development and production funding (Harris, 2016). Thus, it is vivid that there is a wave of national and international changes in the film industry with the aim of attaining gender equality in the industry. Harris (2016) argues that it is reasonable for Screen Australia to take a controversial step or a policy that seems impossible or radical at the moment in order to promote gender equality in the film industry.
Apart from funding, there are other ways that can be used to promote gender parity in the film industry. The Swedish Film Institute has developed a website for women in the film industry that aims to showcase their work and to make the work more visible to their audience. In Sweden, the ministry of culture has developed appropriate programs aimed at young female film developers in a bid to combat the gender disparity that is culturally embedded into them at a young age (Harris, 2016). These policies demonstrate that there are creative ways in which Australia can use to combat gender inequality in the film industry without dwelling much on funding.
Harris (2016) also suggests that a variation of Bechdell Test can be used to check whether scripts are eligible for funding. This test asks whether two women in a movie can have a meaningful conversation in a film without discussing men. Screen Queensland utilizes this test when checking whether films are eligible for funding. This test demonstrates a notion of equality in films and also raises questions regarding the stories and values demonstrated in films.
Funding female film producers are believed to increase the number of female characters on-screen who play more complex roles in intricate narratives (Harris, 2016). These narratives demonstrate the women self-reflexive perspective in a manner in which no male director can and explore concepts that are not sufficiently explored by men such as sexual discrimination in the workplace. It is important to comprehend that the effects of films go beyond their economic outputs. Films redefine the cultural and social aspects of people, and the way they are represented on screen affects the way they conceive themselves off the screen (Harris, 2016). There is a need for Australian stories to be told through the lens of both men and women rather than be male-dominated. This will enable them to represent the richness and diversity of the contemporary Australian culture (Harris, 2016). This necessitates the need for gender diversity in order to showcase the exactness of the culture as diversity is very clear even in Australian demography.
In Australia, questions have also been raised about the diversity of the gaming industry. It is estimated that the Australian gaming industry has a higher gender disparity than the mining and construction industries (Golding, 2016). It is estimated that only 8% of all workers in the gaming industry are women (Serrels, 2014). Game Developers' Association of Australia (GDAA) accepts the diversity is an issue they are trying to solve but accepts that the industry is not willing to make rapid steps that may adversely affect the industry. When gaming industry decided to request the Senate for funding, the senators were impressed with the industry, but there were huge concerns about the gender disparity in the industry. It was this concern that concluded that although the industry required the assistance of the government, it was important for the industry to demonstrate its efforts in combating gender inequality.
The inequality in the gaming industry is based on the Australian culture that the game developing is a male profession. There is a condescending attitude on female students even in the university where their opinions are dismissed without consideration by their male peers. Interestingly, most women in the game developing industry have influenced by a close male who played the games with them (Serrels, 2014). The women in the game developing industry have had to work in a hectic environment where they have to fight for their opinions to be considered even in the workplace. They have had to fight sexist male executives in order to establish themselves in the industry. This has led to the development of games which are more masculine and do not suit the taste and preference of female gamers. Lack of sufficient women in gaming industry has contributed to poor representation of women in games and lack of gender diversity in e-sports
There have been efforts by the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Association (IGEA) to create an initiative that aims to combat gender inequality in the gaming industry. The initiative dubbed The Working Lunch aims to empower women in the entry-level of the industry via networking events and workshops where they will be provided with advice and support from a group of mentors (Parker, 2017). The new entrants into the industry will be allowed to have one-on-one mentorship sessions with the women who have enough experience in the industry. The Working Lunch will also promote educational and career development of women through the development of programs. Only time will tell whether the Working Lunch Initiative will be a success or not.
However, there is lack of concrete plans by the Australian government to address the disparity in the games industry. Other than the recommendation by the Senate group, there are no clear efforts by the government to make the Australian gaming industry more inclusive of women.
There is a need for Screen Australia to put more appropriate plans to combat gender disparity in the film industry. The current efforts are not adequate. The Gender Matters Initiative has failed miserably, and its critics believe that it is promoting gender separation. It would be more appropriate if the funding available for all Screen Australia projects were divided equally between the two genders as it is done in Canada. This would enable individual working on creative roles in the movies to work effectively in mixed groups that consist of both genders without the fear of loss of funding. The film industry represents the culture of the film developers, and it is important for the culture to represent the demographic diversity of a country. Thus, gender parity in both the film and the gaming industry will be a clear illustration of the Australian culture to the world.
Caprino, C. (2016). Forbes welcome. Forbes.com. Retrieved 20 November 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2016/04/11/tackling-gender-bias-in-tech-and-beyond-evolving-towards-equality/#3faac7224ccd
Golding, D. (2016). Not playing around: senate inquiry into Australias games industry. Metro Magazine, (189).
Harris, L. (2016). A gender policy that aims for equality? Not yet. Metro Magazine, (189).
Parker, L. (2017). How Australias gaming industry is leading the way in fighting sexism. the Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/aug/26/how-australias-gaming-industry-is-leading-the-way-in-fighting-sexism
Serrels, M. (2014). Why do so few women work in the Australian games industry?. Kotaku Australia. Retrieved 22 November 2017, from https://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/04/why-do-so-few-women-work-in-the-australian-games-industry/
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