As we have just celebrated International Women’s day, it is important to acknowledge that women are still less likely to hold C-Level roles within the media industry. To achieve gender equality in the media, we still have a long way to go. Yet, although the progress is slow, more female-focused media brands are coming to market to meet the growing demands for gender equality in the industry.
We wanted to take the time to explore five trailblazing women who hold key positions within the industry. Our list covers large media corporations such as the BBC and Netflix to smaller businesses Sister and Bad Wolf.
In the space of a few years, Sister has launched itself into a groundbreaking, award-winning and exciting company. First founded as Sister Pictures back in 2018 by Featherstone, after a long stint at the production company Kudos (where she oversaw hit dramas Broadchurch Spooks and Life on Mars), then relaunched as Sister in 2019. Backed by her fellow co-founders, Elisabeth Murdoch and Stacey Snider, Sister has gone from strength to strength, focusing on producing TV and film dramas. Of late, Sister has become an internationally renowned indie producer, with Featherstone recently exec producing a huge array of dramas, among them “Landscapers” for Sky and HBO, “The Power” for Amazon and “This Is Going to Hurt” for the BBC and AMC.
In 2020, Moore was the only woman amongst four leading candidates for the Director-General position at the BBC. While she may not have gotten that position – the then Head of Content, was soon to be promoted to board level and given the job of Chief Content Officer. Moore’s promotion made an already highly regarded exec one of the most powerful figures in global TV, expanding her remit to include not just overseeing all of the BBC’s network TV channels, but radio, education and children’s content as well.
Moore has also become a champion of the drive to increase diversity, acknowledging that as an industry more needs to be done to increase equal opportunities behind the camera.
Recently Netflix has doubled its spending on productions in the UK, its biggest market outside of the USA, to $1 billion. One of the guards to this money is Mensah, the ex BBC and Sky veteran who was approached by Netflix back in 2018 as the streaming giant bolstered its UK presence. Mensah has overseen new contracts signed and showered money on UK TV production, from signing lengthy contracts with The Crown creator Peter Morgan to backing hit shows such as The Witcher, Sex Education and Black Mirror. Mensah has also helped drive Netflix’s local diversity initiatives, such as large investments that have gone toward scholarships at the Identity School of Acting – the London school that counts John Boyega, Letitia Wright and Michaela Coel among its alums.
Mullin has had a long and successful career within the media industry. Having worked as an executive producer for Paramount and Telepictures, before joining Freemantle. Promoted to CEO in 2018, Mullin is the group CEO for Freemantle. Mullin is responsible for hits such as the Idol/X-Factor and the Got Talent franchise, all while running the company’s high end scripted division with dramas such as “My Brilliant Friend”. In 2020, Mullin instigated the ambitious takeover of Tel Aviv-based Abot Hameiri, the production company behind Netflix’s hit drama Shtisel.
Tranter is a near-legend in British Television, having been the brains behind Spooks, His Dark Materials and the revival of cult phenomenon Doctor Who. Tranter began her career as a secretary at the BBC radio drama department before switching to television, where she worked on Eastenders and Casualty.
In 2015, Tranter set up Bad Wolf Productions with fellow BBC and Doctor Who alum Julie Gardner. The future looks bright for Tratner as she returns with Bad Wolf to produce Doctor Who in 2023, with Davies returning to the show.
We haven’t added her to our list but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the trailblazing icon Beryl Vertue who sadly passed away this February. A media industry giant, Vertue started her production company, Hartswoods Films, in 1979. Hartswoods produced classics such as Sherlock, The Devil’s Hour and Dracula. Vertue’s legacy is continued by her two daughters, who now manage Haartswoods Films.
Impressive advances in onscreen representation have not been matched by gains in C-Level positions where, at least at the very top and particularly outside the United States, it is still very much a man’s world.
In the wake of International Women’s Day, it is important to reflect on how far we have come whilst realising what changes are needed going forward. We hope you’ve learnt a little bit about some of the women that have helped change the UK media landscape.