men working above

The sign said Men Working Above, and that seemed like an anachronism to me.  It’s 2013 and shouldn’t the sign say, “People Working Above”?

This was in the building where I stay when I work in Vancouver.  The signs are all over the neighborhood, all using Men instead of People.  This particular one was for the workers who were hoisting themselves up 14 floors to scrub dirty windows.

I asked one of the Men Working Above if there were ever any Women Working Above and he said not to his knowledge.  Is it possible that there isn’t a woman out there who would like to make a living dangling on strong ropes and pulleys and occasionally seeing an embarrassed naked person scurry for cover?

Perhaps they were scared off by the perception that this isn’t Women’s Work.  Or maybe they were discouraged by the feeling that this was a male dominated workplace.

The sign struck a chord with me because I work in such a World.  There are very few women directors in either television or film.  There are many women who want to become directors and we are starting to make some progress with various diversity programs that are knocking down doors and removing ceilings.

It’s hard to understand what the problem is.  It’s a creative position that also involves good communication skills and time management.  None of these are considered particularly “masculine” qualities.

Maybe it is the “take charge” aspect of directing that seems particularly male.  Some people think of the director as the Captain of the Ship and we all know that it is rare to see women in commanding positions.

A film crew is predominantly male.  There is a sprinkling of women behind the camera, mostly in the hair and make-up departments and as script supervisors—that’s the person that makes sure the script is followed and records everything that is actually shot and printed.

It’s intimidating for anyone to walk on a set and take command of a small army of about 60 people, not including actors and extras.  It might be a lot harder for a soft-spoken woman (or man) to take the reins.

But Kathryn Bigelow didn’t have any problems.  She’s become one of the top film directors in Hollywood and she has done it by making very compelling tough movies like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

Hopefully people in the entertainment industry will take a look at Bigelow and realize that their assumptions are all wrong and it is a really bad idea to generalize about people

There is a strong push from my network, USA, which has a woman President, Bonnie Hammer, and my studio, Universal, to diversify when it comes to hiring directors.

It’s a start but too often, the same women and minority directors are hired and we’re not growing the pool fast enough.  It’s going to mean taking chances on people who don’t have a track record because it’s so damn hard for women and people of color to get on the track.

The same goes for CEO’s and window washers.  It’s so easy to generalize and we all do it.  It’s just easier to put people in little boxes and not really take the time to judge every individual as, well, an individual.