Gender Equality in UK TV Production

Directors UK is campaigning to improve access, training and opportunities for women directors working in UK television production.

Our latest gender inequality report, launched in August 2018, reveals that despite making up 51% of the population, only one in four television episodes are directed by women. The report looks at television output from 2013-2016 and reveals that the gender gap has increased across all four of the main UK broadcasters: BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – despite their public commitment to improving gender equality.

Alarmed by this discovery, we are stepping up our campaign by calling for equality targets to be set and tracked through mandatory monitoring, and for broadcasters to commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend for all programme making to fund career development and industry access schemes.

Read the full report.


In 2014, Directors UK issued its first ever report on female directorial representation in UK television production. Women Directors – Who’s Calling the Shots? highlighted the chronic lack of women directing UK programming and the narrow range of subgenres they were getting the opportunity to direct. Since then, we have been actively campaigning on behalf of our members to improve the gender balance across the industry.

Keen to see if broadcasters had made headway in addressing this inequality, we have now launched an updated 2018 report – Who’s Calling the Shots? A Report on Gender Inequality Among Screen Directors Working in UK Television which analyses the gender of working directors by broadcaster (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5) and genre.

Our latest findings reveal that the percentage of programmes directed by women between 2013 and 2016 has decreased by 2.98%. So, despite broadcasters’ apparent commitment to increasing gender equality in the aftermath of our previous findings, the gender gap within our profession remains at unacceptable levels.

As the broadcasters appear to be struggling to make positive headway, we are now calling upon Ofcom to use its regulatory powers to set up mandatory monitoring and reporting targets for broadcasters, making them personally accountable for improving equality within their own production teams.

Read the full report.


Who’s Calling the Shots? A Report on Gender Inequality Among Screen Directors Working in UK Television

Our report analysed 47,444 episodes broadcast between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2016 on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. This encompassed the work of 4,388 individual directors.

We found that: 

  • Each broadcaster showed a decline in the percentage of episodes directed by women between 2013 and 2016
  • Only 25% of episodes broadcast across the four television channels in that period were directed by women
  • Factual programming showed the most significant decrease, by 9.8 percentage points
  • Children’s programming saw a 4.5 percentage point decline
  • Other genres saw a small improvement (but still had an overall lower percentage of women directors): multi-camera and entertainment increased by 2.8 percentage points, while drama and comedy rose by 4.4 percentage points

The full report also reviews specific broadcaster performance within each genre over this same period.


In the aftermath of our previous report, Directors UK worked in partnership with broadcasters to place women directors into on-set career development initiatives. Our figures would appear to indicate that this type of direct intervention has had a positive effect, with continuing drama showing an increase of 7.3 percentage points from 2013 to 2016.

Casualty, Holby City and Doctors all developed partnership initiatives with Directors UK and Creative Skillset in the form of the BBC Continuing Drama Directors’ Scheme, and the results are clear to see – with jumps of 14.8%, 14.4% and 16.2% respectively over the time period.

Similarly, in 2015 ITV Studios ran a two-week multi-camera training programme on Coronation Street and Emmerdale, which was open to women and BAME directors. Both programmes saw a spike that year, with women directing 29.5% of Coronation Street episodes (an increase of 6.8 percentage points over the previous year) and 19% of Emmerdale episodes (a 6.5% increase). 

But until such interventions become common practice instead of the exception, a positive and long-lasting move towards equality will not happen. The figures show that schemes like the ones mentioned above work, and now they need to be replicated across other genres and programmes.

Report Recommendations

Within the report, we have made a series of recommendations to be undertaken by UK broadcasters and Ofcom to help improve equality, transparency and accountability:

  1. We are calling for Ofcom to make it a mandatory annual requirement for all UK broadcasters to monitor and publicly report on the diversity characteristics of all those making programmes for them. This reporting must include both permanent staff and freelancers. In particular, we would like to see broadcasters monitor and publish the equality data of senior production roles such as producers, writers and directors as well as the heads of departments. This transparency will make broadcasters accountable for the effectiveness of their equality, diversity and inclusion actions and commissioning goals and identify areas of concern that can be positively addressed.
  2. We call for Ofcom to set broadcasters targets to use production crews whose gender, ethnic and disability makeup mirrors that of the UK population, both in front of and behind the camera, by 2020.
  3. We call on broadcasters to take practical measures to improve the diversity of their programme makers and to build the following provisions into their commissioning contracts:
    • Unconscious bias training for everyone in hiring or hiring approval positions in broadcasters and production companies.
    • A commitment to regularly bring commissioners, production companies and freelancers together to network to improve job mobility within the industry.
    • A commitment to fairer recruitment practices in line with other industries to improve equal access to opportunities for all; in particular, externally advertising roles and the introduction of written references for freelance production staff. Hirers should also commit to women making up 50% of those being interviewed for senior production roles.
  4. We call on all broadcasters to commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend across all programme-making as a levy to fund industry access and career development schemes for under-represented groups.

Campaign Aims

  • To increase the visibility of women directors across all genres and at all career stages
  • To increase employment opportunities and positively impact career progression routes for women directors
  • To tackle inequality in the industry by changing workplace practices and behaviours that disadvantage women directors because of their gender
  • To reach a target of women directors working on 50% of productions across all broadcasters’ programming output by 2020

Our Approach

  • Our campaign works in an open and flexible way, led by the Women Directors Working Group, who continue to steer our energies and give us insights into the day-to-day challenges of women directors working in television. 
  • Using our findings, we can work with the industry to make practical change. By continuing a dialogue with the organisations that can change the gender hiring narrative we have an opportunity to suggest and support real solutions to deep rooted problems. 
  • Members are invited to continue to contribute and help develop the campaign whether it be through the Women Directors Working Group, campaign webpage or by contacting our campaign team. You can contact Campaigns Engagement Manager Natasha Moore at [email protected]

Next Steps

The campaign has been meeting with broadcasters to discuss their progress in gender equality and continues to monitor broadcaster reports, initiatives and commissioning guideline to hold them to account when they fail to deliver. We will continue to raise awareness of the issue and ensure that under-representation of women directors does not fall off the agenda. The campaign continues to lobby key organisations across the industry to ensure that:

  • The commissioners and production executives responsible for hiring share responsibility for improving the employment of women directors.
  • There is a uniform, consistent monitoring of the freelance workforce throughout the industry
  • Standards of fair selection (such as written references) applied to permanent staff are extended to freelancers
  • Broadcasters and production companies work with Directors UK to develop initiatives that provide real employment opportunities and progress careers
  • Behaviours that disadvantage women directors are effectively managed through HR training and stop the risk-averse culture that keeps hiring the same directors

The previous phase of the campaign

In our previous TV gender report Who’s Calling the Shots? (2014) we looked at how attitudes within the media industry were preventing women from reaching their full potential. We found that despite women representing almost 30% of the directing workforce they were grossly under-represented in directorship roles compared to their male counterparts.

  • Only 8% of entertainment and comedy was directed by women
  • Only 13% of drama was directed by women
  • Factual programming was at that point the best performing genre; 50% of episodes were directed by women, but much of this was work about, food, body issues, lifestyle and home

As a result we made a number of recommendations for change, including calling for a consistent monitoring of freelancers and asking that the standards of fair selection applied to permanent staff be extended to the hiring of freelancers. Our work produced a number of positive outcomes:

  • Discussions with Channel 4 led to the development of a mentoring scheme to open up more directing opportunities for women
  • We worked with Creative Skillset to develop work placements for women directors on a number of continuing drama programmes, including Hollyoaks (Channel 4), Holby City and Casualty (BBC)
  • Working with broadcasters to run the high-end drama scheme which created work placements on premium TV drama series for women directors. Shows in the scheme include Mr Selfridge, The Tunnel, Humans, Dickensian, Jamestown, Bodyguard, Silent Witness and Call the Midwife

In response to the industry calls to monitor freelancers from several organisations, the broadcasters joined forces with the Creative Diversity Network in 2016 to start collecting equality, diversity and inclusion data under the Project Diamond scheme. Though database completion or publication of data by broadcaster is not yet obligatory, having an infrastructure to capture the data is a move in the right direction towards more effective monitoring.

Read the 2014 Report: Who’s Calling the Shots? (2014)

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