CJ @ CineEurope – ‘Women in Cinema’ panel

By Patrick von Sychowski | July 26, 2017 3:53 am PST

Celluloid Junkie recaps the main conference sessions at this years CineEurope for the benefit of those unable to attend or who did but want to jog their memories. As always, our transcription sometimes abbreviate to captures the gist of what was said, rather than…..hmmm…ahhh….you know, like…transcribe every word that was said. With the sessions being recorded and shared for the first time ever you can watch the entire panel discussion in the embedded Vimeo video below or read our summary.

The first panel of CineEurope 2017 was devoted to the subject of women in cinema. Despite women making up the majority of cinema audiences world-wide, they continue to be significantly under-represented in senior management positions. UNIC hosted a closed door session on this topic at last year’s CineEurope and has since further embraced it by launching a mentoring scheme as well as having an incoming CEO who happens to be female. It was thus timely to kick off this year’s conference with this topic.

Phil Clapp, President of UNIC and CEO of the UK Cinema Association opened the session by stressing the importance of this topic for the entire industry. “For a sector its very survival depends on its needs to understand and respond to the changing needs and tastes of our customers.” He went on to point the “numerous studies showing that companies that strive for gender-balanced leadership outperform others in terms of profit and turnover.” He also promised that UNIC will be tracking the statistics in member countries, as well as promoting efforts such as the mentoring scheme.

The moderator for the session was Clare Turner, Client Services Director at UK cinema advertiser Pearl and Dean – whose boss Kathryn Jacobs has co-written a book on the subject of females facing challenges in senior roles called “The Glass Wall” and who was speaking on the same topic at the Cannes Lions that very day. The panellists were: 

Jill Jones, Executive VP, International Marketing and Distribution, Mister Smith Entertainment

Anna Marsh, Executive VP, International Distribution, StudioCanal

Dertje Meijer, CEO, Pathé Netherlands

Eddy Duquenne, CEO, Kinepolis

Clare began by stressing that the numbers varied between different countries with Russia having 47% female representation in senior roles in cinema companies, while Japan at the bottom had just 7% and the UK sat in-between at 19%. So the first question to the panel was the obvious one of ‘why so few senior female leaders’ and are any of the reasons specific to their cinema sector.

Jill Jones: “There are a lot of reasons that combine. One may not be popular – women have families, make choice for less conventional work or leave workforce. Make sure women have the support to stay in a career job if they choose. This is the consuming nature of what we do. I know many women who chose to have different balance in life. How can women have family and stay on track if that’s what they want to do?

Anna Marsh: “Balance is definitely important to all of us, men and women. Role model is key. It is great that effort is made to set aside time to help grow talent. Key to moving forward is having that support, both women and men, so that we don’t feel alone. Having a female mentor/role model is important, but it’s also important to have male mentors and role models. I’m lucky to have had some amazing male bosses who have given me confidence to move forward. As a women we always doubt if we are 100% comfortable doing a job we don’t go for it as we are perfectionist.”

Clare points out that there is research that women go for promotions when they feel they have ticked all the boxes, while men might feel they tick half but will wing it for the things they don’t know.

Dertje Meijer: “I agree on the point about mentorship. We did small study in Netherlands and we don’t have figures as bad as your figures. Not single digit ones. For cinema business we have 35% percent in general, CEOs 30%. But government and healthcare is 45-50%. Arthouse cinema CEOs it is also over 40%. Our conclusion is that it has to be less commercial to have women involved. [audience laughter] I personally don’t agree but it could be one of the reasons.”

Eddy Duquenne, CEO, Kinepolis and Dertje Meijer, CEO, Pathé Netherlands on 'Women in Cinema' panel at CineEurope. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski - Celluloid Junkie)

Eddy Duquenne, CEO, Kinepolis and Dertje Meijer, CEO, Pathé Netherlands on ‘Women in Cinema’ panel at CineEurope. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski – Celluloid Junkie)

Clare then turned to the “token male on the panel” to ask his view.

Eddy Duquenne: “The good thing about this panel is that at least for me it creates some awareness. I asked my HR guy for some numbers. 55% of our employees are women, in senior positions has 80% men and 11% women [sic]. I don’t know if this is a problem, it is more of an opportunity. The top women are there not because they are women but because of their talents and skills. What we could do better is to facilitate their role. Personally I am not very in favour of quotas. There is always offer and demand and we need to go for the best we can for the company.”

Clare Turner: “In advertising you see in middle management equal representation, but then there is not quite a an exodus but definitely a drop out in senior position. But Dertje, you clearly want to respond to something Eddy said.”

Dertje Meijer: “Am I that obvious? [laughter] Eddy, I was really pleased to hear that we are “allowed” to be in the boardroom. When we talk about ROI when you have women in board positions you have better ROI.”

Clare Turner: “McKinsey did a study that over 28 trillion dollars would be added to the economy by 2025 if we had equality in the workplace. There are vast number of studies that link diversity in the work place to better business performance.”

Jill Jones: “One of the things he mentioned is something people feels mixed about. When you set quotas it diminishes the accomplishments of the women who are there. It needs to be addressed without mandating it. Maybe there is an interim way of doing that. If you say have to have 50% women on the board then there is a fear that they are not worthy. You need to have the strength of having the best people and at least half of that will be women.”

Eddy Duquenne: “The more technical departments it is more men. Operation, sales and marketing it is more women. It was not intended to be that way, we did not recruit that way. The majority of our customers are women. The majority who decide on cinema choices are women. For us skills and talent are key. We want the right woman or man in the right position. Could we do more to facilitate? In the new world it will not be 9 to 5 but working everywhere, but being involved in the company – and you see that in the new generation of youngsters coming in. This is an opportunity for women coming in.”

Bertje Meijer and Anna Marsh at CineEurope's 'Women in Cinema' panel. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski - Celluloid Junkie)

Dertje Meijer and Anna Marsh at CineEurope’s ‘Women in Cinema’ panel. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski – Celluloid Junkie)

Anna Marsh: “While I agree what you say about quotas, there has to be a driving force in the company for women. We saw that in Studiocanal in the last five or six years when we had a new HR director. Without being a super feminist she made small and subtle changes in the company. And now on the board it is 54% women. Finance director role in France is 100%. And a real programme of promoting young talent through. We don’t need quotas but we need a driving force to make it happen.”

Jill Jones: “I work for a small company now. As far as men and women we are well represented. It is difficult because it is an industry-wide issue. We need events like this that to raise issue and also put structures in place to move forward that helps this industry wide.”

Dertje Meijer: “In Pathe in France they have 50% women at CEO level, executive committee is 40% and [inaudible] 35%. So the role model on top helps very much. When I started in the movie business it was a masculine industry. But when I left my previous job 35% women in management position at City of Amsterdam. Look at talent pool. But it is 50% men AND 50% women. We have to start with awareness of that. Bigger companies have Chief Diversity Officer, L’Oreal just won an award for that. 65% new comers are women. Top now they have 30%. But only after they started CDO and diversity training. We are not aware of our prejudices against women. Even we over here. Even 80% of Dutch don’t like a women on top. Even the women.”

Clare Turner: “This goes much deeper and is cultural in how we are brought up. Anna, your HR director pioneered this.”

Anna Marsh: “At Studiocanal we have a Leadership Feminine programme. Pigeon holes it a bit. What it does do is give techniques for women for communication, network of support and they don’t feel so alone. I was thinking when preparing for this panel. Tiny anecdote, I was preparing for judo tournament of my daughter and my son. She is six years old and she was pushing this little boy to the ground, doing the judo thing and winning. Granny is pipping up, ‘My grandson is only losing because he is a real gentleman.’ And I thought, I must tell this story at this panel. It is not business but it is education. We have to be aware of that awareness.”

Clare Turner: “Eddy, do you have any particular strategies at your organisation to retain business and talented women?”

Jill Jones, Executive VP, Int'l Marketing & Distribution, Mister Smith Entertainment. (photo: Film Expo Group)

Jill Jones, Executive VP, Int’l Marketing & Distribution, Mister Smith Entertainment. (photo: Film Expo Group)

Eddy Duquenne: “We started in 2009 with Human Capital as well as HR department, because we consider our employees as resources, not capital. Essentially to support them with personal coaching programme. We have Talent Factory. It is led by a woman in a senior position, Valerie, doing a great job. In our company it is about talent. We do have a lot of women onboard. BAsed on this awareness can we fascilitate for them to have easier access, for family and so on. This is more of an opportunity than a problem.”

Clare Turner: “Men are also in gender stereotypes. There it is not acceptable for them to leave early or have paternity leave. Generally, in the UK. It is across male and female stereotypes. Next question for the ladies on the panel, your personal experience. Kathryn wrote ‘The Glass Wall’. UK, US and Russia more than a third of women felt their gender held them back. Share your personal experiences of being women in a male dominated industry?”

Jill Jones: “I’ve had wonderful mentors and bosses who were men. I felt my gender in my work more when I was younger. I had to prove myself more than my male colleagues. “Could you girls do this.” I felt I was separate at a lower level. I now feel I can anchorage and mentor women in my companies, making sure that when they are on maternity leave that they don’t feel their job is threatened, that they feel they can come back. A woman who wants to work four days a week from the office and a man says “that’s unacceptable”. Things have gotten better in last 15-20 years.”

Clare Turner: “There is no excuse with technology. Remote working makes it possible.”

Jill Jones: “I do five days a week. I work in Paris and my company is London based. That is fantastic. A lot of jobs can be accommodating and if it keeps good women in their roles it is worth considering.”

Dertje Meijer: “In younger years you have to work hard, but in older and senior position then you are more equal. So when you are young you needs those mentors. Culturally it is still hard for [parents] to share responsibilities. Lots of work to be done by the government. And speak up that you want the job.”

Eddy Duquenne, CEO, Kinepolis and Dertje Meijer, CEO, Pathé Netherlands (photo: Film Expo Group)

Eddy Duquenne, CEO, Kinepolis and Dertje Meijer, CEO, Pathé Netherlands (photo: Film Expo Group)

Anna Marsh: “You have to be in the office for that decision making. That is not gender based. Be results oriented and work really hard from young to senior position. Don’t use any excuse of ‘I’m a woman’. Be the best you can in your job.”

Clare Turner: “Final quick question before we open up to the audience. If you had just one piece of advice for women starting in cinema industry?”

Jill Jones: “Toughen up. It is not about being liked. Use humour to defuse situations. When you find yourself in a situation, where you have to put up your hand and say ‘sombody said something’ or all the men are going to a pub, use humour. But you have to be good at advocating for yourself.”

Anna Marsh: “Embrace your doubts, because it is good to question, but then move on and do it.”

Dertje Meijer: “Stay authentic, don’t act like a man, stay the woman that you are. Speak up, tell them you are interested. Find a mentor in your own company, male or female.”

Eddy Duquenne: “It is a challenge for all of us to find the right talent. It is no longer just about selling tickets and Coca-Cola and popcorn. Cinema industry is where you can have a career as manager straight out of high school. First issue is talent. We need the best talent on-board, whether male or female. I’m going to go back to my company and three of our of the four human resources managers we have are women, so I think they are open to this issue of how to facilitate talent that is female.” 

Anyone also interested in the Q&A session at the end can watch it in the video from 34:00 mark onwards. 

Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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