This year, The Women of the World Festival celebrated its ninth year of highlighting the achievements of women and unpacking the obstacles that stop them from reaching their full potential (you can read a bit more about the festival here).
To get involved in this powerful and important conversation, Hook celebrated International Womens Day by attending this festival and listening to its amazing lineup of speakers. Out of the many topics discussed at The Women of the World Festival, there were three big themes that made a lasting impression on us and which (we believe) resonate out across the media industry.
Activism as a form of self-care
Reports detailing how disconnected, stressed and isolated we feel as a population are making headlines constantly. Equally, business is booming for those creating apps and writing books detailing the ways we can better ourselves to lead more successful and happier lives.
The zeitgeist is full to the brim with buzzwords and advice: Have some ‘me time’; something doesn’t spark joy? Chuck it out. If we’re to believe the hype, happiness and well-being is what we should all be aiming for in our lives.
However, Scarlett Curtis, the author of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) and founder of The Pink Protest, is railing against “the idea that if you make yourself happy and fulfilled the world will be a better place”. Instead, she advocates activism as the antidote to feeling down.
“Feminism is my self-help and it’s nothing to do with the self.”
Curtis told the Women of the World Festival audience how she had suffered with mental and physical health issues for the majority of her adolescence, to the point that she was unable to leave her home. She sought guidance from the plethora of reading material available online, all which seemed to push an introspective approach.
Instead, Curtis began to read books with a more activist slant – namely Angela Davies’ Women, Race and Class. Engaging with literature on social issues transformed Curtis’ life and gave her the motivation she needed to combat her own personal demons and inspired her to take up a life of activism.
“Reading this book made me want to get better, to be part of a collective, part of this thing that helped other people and didn’t care about white middle-class girl problems. I would advise anyone who is sick of picking up books about how to become a better you and start reading ones about how to become a better us.”
Curtis’ ethos when it comes to self-care is a simple one: doing good ultimately does you good. Altruism in the digital age creates community, a sense of belonging, and keeps things in perspective – something to keep in mind as we see altruism-minded social media trends like #trashtag ramp up across social media.
Avoid gender pitfalls
During WOW’s ‘Looking out for Women and Money’ panel, experts Jane Portas (Insuring Women’s Futures), Kirsty Good (MoneySavingExpert) and Teresa Reynolds (Incredible Brilliant Youth) helped the audience address some home truths when it comes to cash:
“We have to stop sleepwalking through life when it comes to our personal finances” urged Kirsty Good. “Attitudes have to change. If you couldn’t read people wouldn’t find it funny. You shouldn’t be able to simply say ‘I’m no good at numbers’ or ‘I was bad at maths at school’. It’s not funny that you don’t know it, bit of tough love here, it’s not acceptable.”
Teresa Reynolds drove home the importance of knowing your worth as a freelancer, especially in creative industries, in which assigning value to work has always been a point of contention. By a show of hands the freelancers of the audience revealed most hadn’t factored in financial safety nets – such as sick pay or pensions – into their rates.
In fact, 52% of British women in their late 20s say they do not understand enough to make decisions about retirement savings while 70% of women in their 50s say they are not saving enough for retirement. At the same time, men in their late 30s have 60% more savings than women of the same age.
Jude Kelly, the former artistic director of the Southbank Centre and founder of the Women of the World festival, cited herself as having fallen victim to these gendered ‘pitfalls’ and implored women of all ages and professions to take advantage of materials made available to them.
As the media industry is full of different types of freelancers (from production through to research), it is worth taking note that amongst the freedom and flexibility that these roles offer, there are some things to look out for as well. Many freelancers in our industry need to take steps today to ensure their security in the future – starting with a long hard look at their finances.
Women in Media
Women of the World Festival above all encourages giving back. From politicians to comedians, the festival’s line up listed an array of notable individuals across a range of sectors offering up their advice and expertise.
One of these individuals was Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams, who spoke of the obstacles she has faced as she has grown her career across the entertainment industry.
Williams’ new venture, Daisy Chain Productions, aims to support the development of young creative talent (particularly, young women) looking to pursue a career in film and television. Using the positive attributes of social media forums, Williams’ wanted to create a community focused on professional development rather than a personal profile.
“I want people to boast [about] their creativity and their work on this platform, rather than their personal lives in this weirdly competitive way. We call them social networks, but I find them to be the loneliest places on earth.”
In light of recent research on gender inequality behind the scenes, it seems projects such as Williams are much needed.
Though some progress has been made (such as the BBC’s declaration that 50% of their workforce will be female by 2020) The New York Film Academy found that – in 2017 – women make up just 19% of executive producers, 4% of cinematographers and 11% of the directors and writers of the 250 top grossing films. While it’s exciting to see the enthusiasm in this area, there is still a long way to go…
This article offers just a small selection of the invaluable advice and illuminating insights we at Hook Research heard at the Women of the World Festival 2019 – we’ll certainly be continuing to think and read about all of these topics across the rest of the year!
Want to hear more of our insights into activism? Then take a look at our blog on How Teen Vogue went from acne to activism. If you want to know more about Hook and our work across the media industry, why not get in touch for a chat? In the meantime, you can follow our updates on LinkedIn and Twitter too.