New research targets TV industry working mums in lockdown

Researchers are calling for mothers who work in unscripted television to take part in a new project to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives and careers.

The research is called ‘Locked Down and Locked Out? The Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mothers working in the UK Television Industry and is being launched today, International Women’s Day, as children in England return to school.

The work is being led by the Institute for Screen Industries Research at the University of Nottingham, in partnership with Share My Telly Job and The Telly Mums Network and is being supported by BECTU.

The team has launched an online survey open to all mothers working in unscripted TV entertainment, documentary, sport, news and current affairs, reality TV, studio quiz shows and online or branded content production. Women working in all roles from development and editorial, to craft and tech, production, post-production, talent management and HR and studio based staff are welcome to take part.

The survey asks about all aspects of working life under lockdown including mental health, job security and childcare. It is available at https://nottingham.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/locked_down_and_locked_out.

Professor Helen Kennedy, University of Nottingham

Leading the work, Professor Helen Kennedy from the Institute for Screen Industries Research, said:

“The Pandemic has revealed longstanding weaknesses in the way we as a society organise childcare and employment, and this is particularly true in industries like TV where work cultures, practices and attitudes place many barriers to equal participation for mothers. This research presents a unique opportunity to understand how women’s caring responsibilities intersect with demographic, spatial and structural inequalities in order to inform better policy and practice responses towards a more equitable post-COVID future.”

The project is the brainchild of the ‘Share My Telly Job’ online community whose Co-Director, Natalie Grant, said:

“It has long been known that the ‘motherhood penalty’ is very real and painfully prevalent in the TV industry. Recent research has indicated that across all industries, mums have suffered exponentially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and been disproportionately affected by job losses, the burden of home-schooling, additional caring commitments and a lack of childcare. This research will be really important in highlighting exactly how mothers in unscripted television have been impacted and what the industry could and should be doing to better support them.”

Cheryl Woodcock, Founder of The Telly Mums Network said: “Since Telly Mum’s Network launched in April 2019, the message has been loud and clear from our community; Telly Mum’s need support. Combining a career in television and motherhood has always presented enormous challenges but the additional pressures of the past year has left many women feeling that it is entirely untenable. This research is so important, and the industry must take note of what is happening to a really valuable section of our workforce and act to support them better and retain brilliant talent”.

Head of BECTU, Philippa Childs said: “Existing research tells us that working mothers encounter systematic disadvantages in terms of pay, perceived competence, and benefits and that in the TV industry, there exists a disproportionate rate of exit for women over 35. We also know from last year’s FTVC report that the industry was already in the midst of a mental health crisis, even prior to the

COVID-19 pandemic. This research will be crucial in understanding how Mothers in the industry have been affected over the last 12 months and Bectu are very pleased to be supporting this vital work”

A full report on the findings will be published later this year.

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