Films, Women and Empowerment

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by Jasmine Davis

I recently read a fantastic article over at the Harvard Business Review about the six paradoxes women leaders face in 2013. It’s classic women’s empowerment - airing out issues that women leaders face in order to resolve them. I love female empowerment articles like this one, because they’re a nice reminder that no, things aren’t always equal. Just like only 9% of directors are women, only 4% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are women. This is a huge problem for women’s empowerment and for society as a whole. Studies show that when women get involved in business and in the community, society does better. It’s the same for women filmmakers - women have diverse and interesting new stories to tell audiences.

One of the issues that the article discusses is the “double-bind paradox”. The authors point out that “women must project gravitas in order to advance at work, yet they also need to retain their "feminine mystique" in order to be liked.” Women tend to be perceived as either likeable or competent, but rarely both. This can be an issue in the world of filmmaking, where a director needs to be likeable enough to get work, but competent enough to get the job done. It’s a huge step backward for women and empowerment that we typically aren’t seen as both of these things.

The authors also discuss how networking for women functions differently than it does for men. Men are more likely to network and exchange ideas, then call in favors. Women, on the other hand, spend more time networking, but are less likely to actually use their network for promotions and other job-related issues. This can be a huge hindrance to female filmmakers, since “calling in favors” can be a great way to get things done in the world of film. However, this could also present a huge opportunity - why not make 2013 the year you truly use your network?

One “paradox” listed in the article was quite shocking. It discusses how women are less likely to get venture capital funding than men, even though more successful startups tend to have women involved at the top. What does this mean for women filmmakers? Ladies may be less likely to get the money they need to complete their film and get it distributed.

However, the Internet is well on its way to shaking up the old system. Independent filmmakers in countries around the world are gaining more prominence every year, especially thanks to online distribution platforms like Film Annex. Programs like the Afghan Development Project are providing women with education in Afghanistan. You can make a decent film with relatively inexpensive equipment these days, meaning that more women are able to get into filmmaking with a lower investment. While these are not total solutions, they are a good start. Women’s empowerment and filmmaking may not be totally entwined yet, but we’re heading there, step by step and year by year.

About the author


WHO WE ARE The Digital Citizen Fund" knowing formally Women’s Annex Foundation" is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in New York City which has set out to help girls and women in developing countries gain access to technology, virtually connect with others across the world, and obtain necessary skills to…

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