Tackling the Underrepresentation of Women in Film Exhibition, the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) Announces 10 Senior Managers Selected to Participate in Women’s Leadership 2021/22

(November 4, 2021) – Set up by the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) in 2016 and funded by the BFI Film Audience Network, the professional development programme fosters the next generation of top female executives and helps tackle underrepresentation at senior levels within the film exhibition sector. Over 50% of previous participants have secured promotions at work since taking part in the course.

In 2014, just 4% of Chief Executive-level jobs in the UK film exhibition sector were held by women. While there is no lack of highly talented women at a mid-management level, lack of progression means that the most senior roles remain male-dominated. The Women’s Leadership programme aims to empower and develop individuals for that next stage. The forthcoming Workforce Survey, due to be published by the ICO in Spring 2022, aims to provide much needed updated data to the film exhibition sector about the current extent of underrepresentation at a senior level.

Selected from a highly-competitive field, the participants for this programme are Teanne Andrews, Director of Operations at We Are Parable; Sylvia Bednarz, Partnership and Operations Director at Sheffield DocFest; Elizabeth Chege, Festival Director of Africa in Motion; Sarah Chorley, Creative Consultant; Rachel Hayward, Head of Film at Home Manchester; Carol McKay, Director of Programming at Picturehouse Cinemas; Sally Pennington, Head of Development at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC); Yvonne Smith, Head of Cinema Operations at Filmhouse Cinemas; Micaela Tuckwell, Executive Director at The Ultimate Picture Palace; and Imogen Weatherly, C Fylm Project Manager at Creative Kernow.

Catharine Des Forges, Director of the Independent Cinema Office said, “It’s great to see another round of this important course and to have had so many great applications for it. We’re very happy to be able to offer an increased number of places this year thanks to the support of BFI FAN. It’s a shame that in 2021 we still need to have this course and I hope that one day it won’t be necessary but, unfortunately, we are still not seeing the representation we need to see at the very highest level. We know from our alumni that this course is transformational. Its unique blend of professional coaching and industry insight from the front line is what makes the difference as well as the creation of strong and supportive networks. We’re really excited by our latest cohort and can’t wait to see what they will do next.”

The many former participants who have made strides in their careers include Melanie Iredale, now Director of Bird’s Eye View Films and Liz Harkman, now Managing Director of Live Cinema UK.

The Women’s Leadership programme delivery is led by Catharine Des Forges, Director of the Independent Cinema Office and executive coach Dr Lucy Ryan. Talks and mentorship will be offered from a wide range of industry experts including Dame Heather Rabbatts, Chair of TimesUp UK; Hilary Carty, Executive Director of Clore Leadership; and Melanie Iredale, Director of Bird’s Eye View Films.

About the Independent Cinema Office
The Independent Cinema Office (ICO), is the UK’s national body that supports independent cinemas through programming, training, consultancy, cultural distribution and organising Screening Days events that help cinemas broaden their programmes. Their mission is to build an open, thriving, robust cinema sector and for everyone to have access to cinema that nourishes the soul and changes lives.

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