Keely Kemp, Vanessa Vidas, Catherine Tait and moderator Amy Terrill
Keely Kemp, Vanessa Vidas, Catherine Tait and moderator Amy Terrill

Playback 2017: Several Organizations Commit to Gender Parity

Gender parity is making inroads in the Canadian music industry.

The Polaris Music Prize, the Canadian Academy of Arts and Sciences (through the Juno Awards), Music Canada and potentially SOCAN are four organizations that have either promised to initiate gender parity or launch an internal investigation into the process. This accord was detailed by Keely Kemp, founder of Across The Board,  at the  Music Canada AGM yesterday.

A panel moderated by Music Canada executive vice-president Amy Terrill (far right) discussed issues in the workplace and the need for an industry-wide best-practices regime.

Also on the panel were Vanessa Vidas, Leader, Inclusion, Growth and Markets at Deloitte, and Catherine Tait, a 30-year veteran of the film and TV industry. Tait, president of Duopoly and co-founder of iThentic, wrote a Canadian Media Producer Agency-sponsored study entitled "Women and Leadership - Gender Parity in the Screen-Based Industries" earlier this year.

Kemp, whose Across The Board mandate is to lobby for equal parity in boards of directors in organizations, said she researched 22 non-profit boards and found women averaged a presence of only 21% in the organizational structure. 

"We set the target of 50% women - so 50/50 by the year 2020," says Kemp, who added that she had held discussions with everyone from artists and management to key executives.

Kemp - who founded her organization in February - said she was encouraged by those who quickly came on board.

Deloitte's Vidas also offered encouraging results, claiming that  "we need to get beyond talking about this subject and get to doing something about it."

At Deloitte, Vidas says the company's CEO is also "our Chief Inclusion Officer" and that the company has encouraged their executive leaders to build up a diverse pipeline of talent for partnership consideration.

The company also examined its policies and determined that recruitment tended to favour Canadian-born men whose first language was either English or French. By allowing potential partnership candidates to choose the style of an interview they thought they would excel at, Vidas says 45% of those promoted to partner at Deloitte this year were women.  

"It's a tremendous achievement, but we're not done - that number will be pushed upwards," Vidas suggested.

In the case of Catherine Tait, she was a 30-year film industry veteran who decided to take matters into her own hands when she'd walk on film sets and find only a couple of women working on a production - usually in charge of "costume and make-up" - with critical positions of director or scriptwriter generally held by name.

She decided to undergo a global study of parity in the screen-based arts and described Canada's stature as "horrifying."

"Canada is one of the worst performers," she explained. "We do very badly in this area. I found that Sweden had several years ago made parity in all government funding for feature films a requirement. France had done something similar with television. When you go to all these EU countries, everybody has done something. Even the Americans had done something."

The good news is that once Tait compiled the data, several organizations committed to swift action.

"Telefilm, Canada Media Fund and National Film Board set up gender parity roles for 2020," Tait reports. "50/50 funding will go to women-led projects – producer-writer-director, so two of the three, and those targets have been set."

The issue of gender parity has been a longstanding one, but it seems that with these successes, entertainment organizations are beginning to change their attitudes about ensuring an equal ratio between the employment of men and women in a company.

This suggestion was undoubtedly bolstered by Amy Terrill's announcement on behalf of Music Canada just minutes before the panel was to discuss the topic.

"We are pleased to be able to confirm that we will be working with experts in governance and organizational excellence to examine our organization, with the intention of finding ways that can be even more representative of the community," Terrill said. 

"We're inspired by the work of Across the Board and feel strongly that there are opportunities for us at Music Canada to do better. This direction was just confirmed a short while ago at our Board meeting. We'll apply this learning to Music Canada but also hope to influence our members and the community at large. SOCAN is already on board and interested in hearing what we learn and in partnering with us and our goals in inclusivity. Expect concrete actions and announcements early in 2018." 

 

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