Sandi Toksvig: The Entertainment Industry Must do More to Recognise Women

We’re all well acquainted with the BBC’s massive pay gap report earlier this summer, in which it was revealed that male stars are paid a disproportionately large amount compared to their female counterparts. The news was not exactly surprising, but the magnitude was astounding.

Since then there has been a scramble from the BBC to address the issue, with Director General Tony Hall promising to close the gap by 2020. This came after he was delivered a letter signed by 40 of the BBC’s top talent including Clare Balding, Victoria Derbyshire and Jenni Murray, demanding that urgent action be taken.

However, Sandi Toksvig – star of the BBC’s QI – has called for more to be done in the world of entertainment to recognise the efforts of women working behind the scenes, not just those in the spotlight.

Speaking in an interview on the red carpet at the Women in Film and Television Awards, Toksvig said the industry needs to, “applaud the phenomenal number of women” that work on creating and producing content, in order to make up for the lack of representation of women in front of the cameras. Going on to joke that (contrary to popular belief), “you don’t need a penis” to work in TV.

Co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party in 2015 along with Catherine Mayer, Sandi Toksvig told the Press Association, “we don’t have equal representation on screen and so we need to absolutely applaud the phenomenal number of women who are doing cameras, who are doing lighting, who are doing all the jobs, because honestly you don’t need a penis to operate a camera.”

Adding that many people, “have never given a thought about the women – and it’s nearly almost always women – who operate the autocue” on television.

“Every man who has ever presented an entertainment programme has been entirely dependent on their autocue operator and that’s a woman.”

“They are the backbone of entertainment. And without them we would have nothing to say so there are always wonderful women who don’t get awards, who don’t get heralded, who are actually making the business run.”

It’s not only an issue of gender pay equality, but gender recognition. And without young women understanding the impact that they can make on what was classically an industry dominated by men, those women involved need to be taking the same approach as Toksvig and making their voices heard.

This echos the same sentiments I recently reported on regarding Catherine Mayer’s lawsuit against her former employer Time. Suing on grounds of sexism, which lead to her dismissal as regional editor of Europe, Mayer asserted that many women are perpetuating inequality by ignoring, or even participating in sexist attitudes.

Writing about the matter the author stated, “This is the point about systemic sexism and ageism. It co-opts people who should oppose it. It perpetuates itself by hiding behind our habitual silence.” And without female voices in the world of entertainment condemning the actions, they are, instead, condoning sexist behaviour. Without making this noise, nothing will change.

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