In honor of International Women's Day, ttvnews shares the experiences of 30+ female executives from the audiovisual industry, and their thoughts on women's role in the industry and the challenges they face.
Adding to the many battles won in recent times, women continue to generate and promote processes of empowerment in the various areas of society. And the audiovisual industry has not been the exception.
An example worth highlighting is the great work being done by the Worldwide Audiovisual Women’s Association (WAWA), an organization that today brings together more than 400 women in the audiovisual industry and who represent leadership positions in the business, both from the creative field to production or distribution.
In recent years, WAWA has undertaken a variety of activities and programs -it is worth emphasizing what has been done in these two years of the pandemic- that have given a leading role to women, their ideas, visions and projects; and among which the celebration of the Woman of the Year stands out, which in the last edition was won by Giselle González Villarué, General Director of SerTV of Panama and recently appointed as Minister of Culture of Panama.
However, as they acknowledge, there is still a long way to go.
In honor of International Women’s Day this March 8, ttvnews asked 30+ women from the international audiovisual industry to share their experiences and visions of this historic moment, which is based on such universal references that guide the way, with anonymous women fighting different battles, including mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters or friends; to references such as Marie Curie, Malala Yousafzai or Jane Fonda.
This has been a kind of mantra for those women who are part of the so-called WAWAs.
“Women in the industry are increasingly taking on leadership positions and doing beautiful work. Directors, content producers, executives, distributors, technicians and creatives standing out in the industry. Creating alliances, doing business, contributing to the growth of the industry. I am very pleased to see success stories from many of these women. It is an inspiration for future generations”, highlights Liliam Hernández, CEO of Universal Cinergia and founder of WAWA.
In addition, Roxana Rotundo, CEO of VIP 2000 TV and president of the WAWA Board, summarizes: “The presence of women in the audiovisual industry has been taking over some spaces, but there is still much to be done. In my experience I have looked for a way to strengthen myself by seeking business with visionary women. I think that in Latin America there are some women with an incredible vision of where the industry is going and I like to team up with them”.
“I believe a lot in alliances, in union, in looking for synergies; It is the way to grow and fill spaces. In my company I always invite us to unite and create business together as a team”, adds the executive.
That vision and that unity is shared by Beatriz Cea Okan, VP and Director of Sales and Acquisitions at Inter Medya. “I think the distinction between men and women stems from our social mentality rather than gender. Unfortunately, traditional value-based attitudes still hold true in both social and business life. These bring with them several problems for women. To correct inequalities and the gender gap, I believe that the mentality of the entire society must be revised”.
“In my opinion, gender diversity is crucial for sustainable living. When we look at some professional studies, the audiovisual industry is among the leading industries in terms of female employment and we see that the media sector is a sector in which women are happy to participate. I believe that the most important factors in this leadership are that the media sector is dynamic and in constant renewal, it provides global job opportunities, it creates opportunities for personal development and it provides the opportunity to work with creative people. The fact that we have seen female executive and creative leadership in many global companies in our industry proves this. Not only in these roles, but also in the productions, we see how hard the women in the field work and how successful they are. Believe me, behind all the scenes we see, there are women who try very hard. I think leadership is in the nature of women,” she adds.
For Rose Hulse, CEO and founder of ScreenHits, the journey in the audiovisual industry as a woman has not been easy to navigate.
“The road has been really hard over the years. I’ve been in this game since 1998 when I got my first media job. It was a different time back then. I kept going and had really great opportunities, but I always felt like my wings were clipped.or that I wasn’t really being groomed for senior executive positions, like CEO or president.”
However, for the executive these situations were obstacles she could overcome and learn from. “It didn’t really bother me, I saw it as another obstacle that I had to overcome.”
“International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate all of the amazing women around the world who, against all odds, paved the way for others like me to succeed,” said Lise Romanoff, President and CEO of Global Distribution, Vision Films.
“As the owner of Vision Films, I personally try to support as many filmmakers as possible. We are lucky to be in the movie business, where female entertainment executives, actresses and directors are always breaking stereotypes, challenging gender bias and not letting discrimination stop them from promoting their achievements loudly,” she adds.
For Marion Camus-Oberdorfer, Director of Sales at ORF Enterprises, women have always had a great influence in the audiovisual industry, although their professional careers have always been restricted to special roles within the sector.
“Women had always major influence on the audiovisual industry, but their careers have always been restricted to special roles within the branch. Especially in the field of film production only few women hardly ever where realized. In our country up to present, we only have a few female producers and directors. This changes very slowly, although a lot of support comes from official institutions. Its as if women had excepted their “inferior role” within this branch. We definitely have to change this, so I try to support every female within my business environment as much as I can!”, she assures.
For María-Jesús Pérez, International Commercial Director of RTVE, the Ibero-American audiovisual industry has for years been a good “breeding ground” for excellent professional women.
“Over time, this school has been providing companies in the sector with many female candidates for intermediate and senior management positions. This trend needs to be consolidated so that opportunities are shared equally between men and women based on their merits and without distinction of gender”, she explains.
Something to highlight is that the audiovisual industry is responsible for the creation of subjectivities and also prejudices and stereotypes. In this sense, the role of women in the industry is extremely important.
“I believe that we should not forget that the audiovisual industry has the immense power to generate content that in some way transforms and shapes behavior models, habits and conduct in society and women have a very important role in this process”, says Adriana Medici, general manager of the Chamber of Producers and Programmers of Audiovisual Signals (CAPPSA) of Argentina.
“I know that there are associations of women in the sector that are working hard to achieve that parity, in an industry that has historically been more under male tutelage. But as in all areas, there is a lot of dialogue and intention to achieve that balance. It is an important turnaround that I understand will be achieved with a lot of work and intelligent actions,” says the executive.
Elisa Lieber, head of Content for Latin America and the Caribbean at Factsory, maintains that 20 years ago it was very difficult to find women in managerial and technical roles in the audiovisual industry.
“This has changed dramatically in the last ten years, with the incorporation of many women in positions of trust in all stages of audiovisual production: from sound engineers, through directors, to managers. Clearly, there is still a long way to go to achieve equal opportunities and be able to combine work life with family life without feeling that one is failing on one side or the other”.
Meanwhile, María Pérez Campi, Director of Sales for Latin America and the US Hispanic at Dori Media, believes that the role of women is expanding “little by little” in the television industry.
“It is good to see that women are gaining more relevance and visibility in this industry. Even so, the majority of decision-makers and top managers remain men. This is something we have to think about”, says Pérez Campi.
In addition, Carolina Sabbag, VP of Sales for Eastern Europe, USA and Canada at Dori Media, shares this vision: “There are more and more cases of successful women and also organizations that are actively promoting the role of women in the industry”.
“I am proud to say that at Dori Media our team is mostly female in sales, legal, marketing. Most of us are mothers so we help each other by balancing our family and work responsibilities. It’s very inspiring to work with people who love what they do and bend over backwards to get their jobs done, even if it means putting the kids to sleep and then answering emails or making a few calls.”
For Patricia Jasin, VP of International Distribution for Latin America at Warner Bros. International Television Distribution, “there is still a long way to go, but women have gained a lot of presence in the industry. Every day more women occupy positions previously dominated by men. It is a great time for diversity; the most effective teams are the most diverse.”
For Aida Martirosyan, CEO of Haymillian, the situation of women is definitely evolving.
“More and more women are being appointed to key roles. We have not yet reached the point where we do not have to talk about the role of women in the audiovisual industry. But we are in a better moment than a few years ago. And it seems that things are changing faster nowadays. Hopefully soon there will be as many women as men in key positions in the audiovisual industry”, she predicts.
Sandra C. Nduna, Director of International Sales and Distribution of MRC Television, shares – like the vast majority of her colleagues – that women today occupy more and more mid- and high-level positions in the audiovisual industry.
“The gender equity movement a few years ago helped address the disparities that existed in our industry. It is exciting to see women in decision-making roles and I am hopeful that we are on the way to having more and more women at the leadership level”, she highlights.
“I see women becoming more empowered and less afraid to speak up and speaking loud enough to be heard. I also feel like there are a good number of sororities globally, which is really good,” said Raphaelle Mathieu, Senior VP of Sales, Acquisitions and New Media at Cyber Group Studios.
“In distribution especially women are really present active with important leadership roles which was not really the case 10 years ago. I am a board member of the French association of distributors (SEDPA) and the reality is that there is a majority of women in this board.”
Erna Schmidt, Manager of Corporate Communications at Talpa Network, celebrates the fact that there are currently more and more women in senior positions, which for the executive “is great growth” although “a healthy 50/50 mix would be ideal”.
“The audiovisual industry is doing very well and you are seeing more and more women in top leadership positions in media and entertainment where, in the past, they were mainly in communications and marketing. But with their experience, flexibility, resilience and vision, women are now moving into other crucial areas previously dominated by men, such as product development, finance and even coveted CEO positions,” says Arianna Saita, director of Screen Hits Marketing.
“This gender equality has become a real priority for most large organizations after initiating diversity processes to change their corporate values and cultures. Today, women make up 49% of the total media and entertainment workforce, but are mostly concentrated in entry-level positions. Still, we’re definitely seeing progress. Media companies now have 36% women in management positions, compared to 26% in other industries,” she adds.
Although Aysegul Tuzun, general manager of Mistco, agrees with her colleagues about the spaces conquered by women in the audiovisual industry, she believes there are still many spaces left to conquer.
“It is very sad that we are still discussing gender discrimination not only in our industry, but also in all fields of life. I think the simplest example is that men and women who have the same positions do not receive the same salary. Women all over the world are still fighting against sexual abuse, mobbing and discrimination just because of being a mother,” she says.
“But still, despite all the hardships, it’s great to see so many amazing women in our industry contributing to the industry with their creativity, kindness, and beautiful souls.”
Marina Ksadzhikyan, Director of Operations and Executive VP of Sales of Rive Gauche assures that in these 20 years she is “finally seeing the changes that we all talk about bear fruit. I see women taking more and more leadership positions and growing in the industry. We still have a long way to go, but we are heading in the right direction.”
For her part, Michelle Wasserman, Senior VP of Formats for Latin America at Banijay Rights, maintains that the place occupied by women in this industry today is “protagonist.”
And she reflects: “You just have to read the news and appreciate the number of women who occupy key positions in this industry. Or not so key, but that were done years ago unthinkable that a woman could occupy that role, for example, in the technical side”.
For Wasserman, the “presence and leadership on the different fronts, whether creative, technical, political, business, or from the training itself, are remarkable. Today there are courses, workshops and even women’s associations specifically”.
However, the executive maintains that it is important to highlight that getting to this point has not been an easy process.
“Discrimination or exclusion, few initial opportunities, prejudices that have had to be fought against, are some of the obstacles that have had to be overcome to get to where we are today.”
“There is still a way to go and barriers to break. There are statistics that indicate that the number of graduates in audiovisual careers is greater than that of men, and it is still men who dominate jobs in quantity. Inclusion -and not just the role of women- is a topic that is very present in today’s world and active in most companies”, she completes.
For their part, Licia Paoli, Luciana Gabellini, Nadine Court and Serena Petrecca from Mediaset Italia; they met in a business environment dominated by men, the international sale of TV channels, and always believed that together they could overcome any difficulty.
“We work in an international environment and it is interesting to see how each country brings its own identity also in terms of integrating women in the workplace,” they comment. “In the TV industry, women have always had a good presence in numerical terms, but only a few years ago they have accessed more strategic positions,” they add.
“We believe that there is still a long way to go to break down prejudices and ensure that women have the same professional opportunities as men. This often generates competition to gain more visibility and space. The four of us, together, immediately try to reverse this mechanism, not giving in to rivalry, but feeling part of a single team, each with its own individuality, but always united and collaborative to achieve the same goal together,” they highlight.
“I think every day we see new examples of women leading successful companies as well as others taking on increasingly more responsible and decision-making positions that used to be filled by men in the past,” said Silvana D’Angelo, CEO of Glowstar Media. “Women have earned a place of respect and have shown not only a special talent for interpersonal relationships, so relevant in this medium, but also empathy and understanding of the audience.”
“All of us who are involved in the audiovisual industry, regardless of gender, have witnessed the potential growth of women in fields that for a long time were led by men. Today we see wonderful work by directors, producers, filmmakers and content creators who have transcended and found a place for their professional development, learning to live with their peers assertively and with great complicity. And this synergy will always be positive for our industry. I celebrate and celebrate it in particular”, highlights Susana Umbert, manager of Entremaintenance of Latina Television of Peru.
"I have seen a nice development but still not satisfactory and not enough. Although there are many more assignments for women in the highest positions in the industry or successful startups launched by women, this does not change the reality of that the industry is still a male dominated world. There are too many creative, smart and passionate directors, actresses, showrunners, screenwriters, agents, producers and executives who still can't get the same opportunities and rights as men in the film business. entertainment".
"There are many women in the audiovisual industry in Ibero-America making history, leaving a mark and an example for the next generation to follow. Personally, I know many professional women in positions of leadership, who stand out for their dedication, charisma and good work in the media. It is worth mentioning that although the role of women has evolved a lot, there is still a long way to go to achieve the much-desired gender equality in this industry".
"It is a good time for women in the industry, who, thanks to their effort and occupation, have become key pieces of our time. It is clear that we can find more and more women in positions highlights of the audiovisual industry and in the various series, which is important progress. At Kapow, we try to ensure that there is always a female gaze-intervention-writing in most of the projects that we develop and tackle, since that is the only way that we can tell more honest stories and from truer perspectives. With the participation of women in certain key positions came the multiplication of complex female characters and the ever-evolving display of female sexualities on screen. Today the female voice is no longer optional: it is necessary".
"Over time and with a lot of dedication, women created the spaces to write, produce, develop and open doors so that many of us can be part of the industry Learning from their experiences, adapting together, evolving, leading challenging projects and producing new paths to support each other in building new windows for the development of real and local stories for this expanding world of content has allowed women not only to grow but to lead in this creative world.
"The role of women is evolving, there are great opportunities in the television industry for everyone who wants to work. Every year, we see more women in management positions. executive director and managers, which I support and encourage a lot".
"Women occupy more positions of leadership and creativity in the industry every day. This is something that has to stop surprising us. I celebrate each achievement and wish to continue finding ways to open doors that represent opportunities for all.
"After more than 7 years of working experience in the audiovisual industry, both in the US and India, I feel that our achievements are now being noticed. Women are now moving the needle and encouraging others women in the audiovisual industry to stand up and make their professional dreams come true. Although, when it comes to equality and parity, we still have a long way to go, as most of the key positions, even today, have occupied by men. In my opinion, women and men in the audiovisual industry now speak much more about women's rights, such as equal pay, equal opportunities, etc., and things will change in the near future ".