UK’s female exec representation declines as Diamond data highlights diversity stagnation

Deborah Williams

The number of female execs in the UK industry is facing ongoing decline following the pandemic, according to the latest data from the Creative Diversity Network (CDN).

The industry body, led by exec director and TBI columnist Deborah Williams, published the sixth annual report – Diamond: The Sixth Cut – today, which analyses data gathered through its Diamond diversity monitoring system.

The report reveals multiple areas of continuing concern for the industry, particularly in off-screen and senior roles. Women are making fewer contributions than they were four years ago, with the decline driven by a reduction in senior roles, where the number of female writers and directors remains very low.

Disabled people and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic minority individuals are still under-represented in all senior roles and craft roles generally remain very segregated.

With the exception of commissioning editor, people who identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic are under-represented in all senior roles compared to population estimates (13%), and in particular, series producer (5.5%) and head of production (7.4%).

South Asian representation off screen at all levels has fallen to 2.4%, less than half the UK population figure (4.9%).

Declining female representation

The number of women in senior roles has dropped again over the past year, from 46.8 to 45.4%, continuing a decline from 50.4% in 2018-19. The sharpest decline in female contributions coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic and the first lockdown.

The representation of males in senior roles has remained relatively stable during this period, with men dominant in most senior roles – in particular director (74.5%) and writer (67.3%).

The number of disabled people in senior roles remains very low, and at a similar level to four years ago, and the overall proportion of on-screen contributions made by disabled people has not increased over this time.

Television remains younger skewing, with over-50s under-represented both on-screen (27%) and off-screen (21.9%), well below the UK population (36%) and workforce (31%) estimates.

Patchy progress

There has, however, been some progress with a rise in off-screen contributions made by disabled people, the over 50s and people who identify as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. Contributions by people who identify as transgender have also doubled over the last three years.

“Six years of Diamond reporting and analysis highlights stubborn areas across the industry, particularly in senior roles,” Williams said.

“It’s clear that despite the initiatives that our members and the wider industry have put in place, there still remains a lot of work to be done to tackle systemic inequality across the sector.

“As indicated in the findings of this report, there is potential for a deeper dive into the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown and the possible contribution it played to the limited progress we are seeing across several groups including women and disabled people in senior roles and in many off-screen roles.”

Diamond: The Sixth Cut contains analysis of the largest annual data sample to date – more than 1.1m individual contributions to content commissioned by six broadcasters (and broadcast between 1 August 2021 and 31 July 2022), marking a 30% increase on the sample collected for 2020-21. This is the first time that UKTV data has been included in the report.

CDN’s 2022-25 strategy includes a focus on increasing understanding of Diamond and removing barriers to participation. This includes making improvements to Diamond to increase both the quantity and scope of data collection and reporting.

The strategy also aims to step up the use of Diamond as a driver for change, building on recent activity such as the TV Access Project (TAP), which has resulted in the publication of new production guidelines for Disability Inclusion, and collaborative work to improve access provision substantively and permanently across the whole industry.

Read the responses to the report from some of the major UK broadcast/streaming groups below.

Zai Bennett, MD of content at Sky UK & Ireland:
“Diamond is a huge asset to the broadcast industry, with its year-on-year increase in data collection proving its status as our most robust barometer for diversity on and off-screen. But this year’s findings once again reinforce the need for concerted action across the sector. Since last year’s report, we’ve appointed Luke Seraphin as our new Head of Diversity & Inclusion for Sky Original Programming to drive forwards an effective strategy which will target some of the problem areas outlined here, and we’re committed to joining forces with the rest of the TV industry to create long-lasting change.”

Maria Kyriacou, president of broadcast & studios for international markets at Paramount:
“Diamond data provides a useful snapshot of the areas where the industry needs to continue focussing its efforts. It helps to inform our own work to diversify who we cast, hire and work with behind the camera. Paramount has been in intentional in its work to drive diversity and is encouraging to see progress reflected in the Diamond Report. Our ‘No Diversity, No Commission’ policy continues to effect change on- and off-screen in the UK and around the world – having been adopted by Paramount colleagues in 112 markets worldwide. We have more work to do – particularly around the industry-wide under-representation of disability – and we are focused on making sure our activity at Paramount, and our partnerships with the industry, continue to drive meaningful change.”

Carolyn McCall, CEO ITV:
“The work of the CDN and the Diamond data they produce is a valuable tool for honing areas of focus for our industry, and we recognise there is more to do with senior representation.

Within ITV, we are committed to ensuring better retention and progression through targeted interventions. These include our £80m Diversity Commissioning Fund which was launched to influence how and who tells our diverse stories, programmes like Amplify – our leadership programme which ran in 2022 for People of Colour and will run this year for Deaf, Disabled and neurodivergent colleagues and Step Up 60, which has ‘stepped up’ over 123 people on our ITV productions in the last two years. We are also active supporters and members of the TV Access Project, and we’re committed to working with industry colleagues to increase representation of Disabled people across the TV industry, both on and off screen.”

Alex Mahon, CEO at Channel 4:
“Since its inception Diamond has been instrumental in driving positive change throughout our industry but as the latest report shows there are still key areas where we, as broadcasters, need to focus our efforts.

“Channel 4 has a strong track record of supporting diversity and inclusion through ground-breaking ideas such as the Black to Front Project, our pioneering Paralympic Production Training Scheme, and the £1m Diversity in Advertising Award and we are always pushing ourselves to do more. This month we launched 4PP, a UK broadcast industry first, which addresses the lack of diversity in the post-production sector. But there is still so much work to be done if we want to nurture a genuinely inclusive culture where anyone, regardless of background, has the opportunity and support to forge a successful career in broadcasting.”

Tim Davie, BBC director general:
“We can see a real difference being made both on and off screen, but there is more to do. That’s why diversity and inclusion remains an absolute priority for the BBC. The Diamond data shows that our industry must continue to work hard to ensure the further progress we all want to see.”

Richard Watsham, chief creative officer at UKTV and global director of acquisitions for BBC Studios/UKTV:
“This report marks the first full year of Diamond data for UKTV’s productions, and while we are making good progress in off-screen representation, particularly by disabled people where we are leading the way, it is clear we have much more to deliver on-screen. This is being urgently addressed and will continue to be a key focus for us. We’re pleased to be part of Diamond; the data is a crucial tool in helping understand where we need to focus attention and allowing us to track progress. We are committed to accelerating that progress over the coming year.”

John McVay, CEO Pact:
“Pact welcomes the latest Diamond report which continues to provide robust data to help industry improve diversity both on and off screen. Pact will use this latest report to discuss with its members how to tackle the important issues it raises, particularly around increasing the number of women, disabled people and ethnic minorities in senior roles.”

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