Tomorrow Celluloid Junkie publishes the fourth annual list of the Top 50 Women in Global Cinema, this year in partnership with our friends at Boxoffice Magazine. As always, it is a privilege to get to shine a spotlight on the hard work and many accomplishments that so many talented women across the world contribute to the cinema business. It is also a major responsibility as we know how seriously the list is taken – as reflected in CJ’s partnership on this issue with trade body UNIC – which is why every year we seek to improve the process whereby we identify and rank those that make it on the list.
We have been incredibly heartened by the record number of nominations, with well over a hundred submissions sent to us this year. We were also impressed by the lengths to which many of those sending in the nominations had gone to write extended explanations about why one or several women deserved recognition. This was not just other people in their company or women nominating each other, but men and women in the business who felt inspired to put forward a particular woman and list her/their many achievements.
As mentioned, we were fortunate to partner our colleagues at Box Office Magazine for the selection process and were able to draw on their global reach and expertise to help identify the most deserving candidates. Our particular thanks go out to Rebecca Pahle, Aysegul Algan, Marion Delique Selmer and of course Daniel Loria, who participated in long conference calls at early/late hours to accommodate everyone’s timezone. In addition we were joined by UNIC’s Diana Stratan and welcomed back Jan Runge. Chairing the proceedings superbly was Celluloid Junkie’s own Helen Budge.
Last year we set ourselves the task of achieving 50/50 before 2020. In fact, we exceeded that goal of gender balance on this year’s Selection Committee, with five women and four men. Far from having an unworkable large group, we found that the balance helped create a collaborative environment with no shouting and little arguing as we worked together to identify worthy candidates. The men were probably still responsible for at least 50% of the talking, as mansplaining habits are hard to shake, but on the whole the discussions gave an opportunity for everyone to give their input. Once again Helen was a star at steering this.
No list is ever perfect and we acknowledge that there is subjectivity wherever you can’t apply a mathematical formula to measure accomplishments. We had to be mindful that due to size, we could populate at least half the list with women from just the United States. To keep a balance we thus had to mindful not to give any one territory or company too much weight on the list, while still recognising everyone that had made outstanding contributions in the past year.
We also tried to give preference to women who work directly for cinema chains, whilst acknowledging that it is an ecosystem that cannot function without vendors and service providers. We also had to balance the impact of a women at a C-level position in a smaller company, versus someone less high ranking in a bigger and more influential company. But by having a large Selection Committee and healthy discussion, we feel that the list we came up with in the end is one we firmly support.
There have been changes between last year’s and this year’s lists. The most significant one is that we are not including women who work in distribution or exhibitor relations roles. Instead, we will highlight these in a separate list to be published before CineEurope this summer. This also applies to women who work in event cinema, which we categorise as distribution. Some women have sadly also left or are leaving the cinema business. Given that we sometimes have to compare apples and oranges, we also created two smaller lists highlighting women in the arthouse sector, as well as Ones To Watch that may not have qualified for the Top 50 list this year, but are very likely to do so if they keep up the work in the cinema business.
As a result, there are 23 new entrants on this year’s list and we have a change at the very top. We are excited to have had nominations that ended up on the list from new markets such as Africa, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. As before, we regret not having been able to locate deserving candidates in major cinema markets such as Japan, Korea, India and other countries. While we may have overlooked someone, we fear that this is a sign that gender balance still has a long way to go in senior management positions in many cinemas. If you feel we overlooked anyone, ask yourself first if that person was nominated by yourself or anyone else. We even welcome self-submissions and women who lobbied others for their nomination. Self promotion should not be the exclusive preserve of men.
Although we bang on about it, it’s worth repeating again and again that cinema is a consumer business driven by women. Whether attending alone or with friends, as mothers, sisters, wives or partners, it is women who more often than men decide whether and if so what to go and see at the cinema. Having a good gender mix in the operation of a cinema makes perfect sense if we want to better understand and cater to that audience and ensure that they continue coming to the cinema.
It is said that we will not have true equality until we have as many mediocre and incompetent women in senior positions as men. Every woman should not have to feel the pressure of being Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel. But tomorrow, we are happy to celebrate the women in our business who are absolutely marvelous and amazing.
The Top 50 Women in Global Cinema will be published online at CelluloidJunkie.com at 12 noon GMT on Thursday 28 March and in print in Box Office Magazine’s CinemaCon issue. Keep an eye out for women wearing the special ‘50’ CJ pin and be sure to congratulate them.