What is gender diversity and why are we supporting it?
Gender diversity is the equitable inclusion and support of all gender identities including trans, nonbinary, female, two-spirit, intersex, etc. By equitably supporting gender diversity on-set, actors, crew members, and audience members can engage more fully with the content produced. That is because when productions move away from tokenism and towards real diversity, the stories they produce are more likely to reflect that authentically.
This has huge economic benefits for productions because audiences support characters and stories they can identify with. In fact, gender diversity both in front of and behind the camera has a direct effect on the financial success of a production. According to a study done at UCLA, on average, stories that fail to support diverse cast and crew members in key creative positions lose around 20% of their budget on opening weekend with a potential loss of over 80% of their budget throughout their life. This not only means that productions that do not support diversity make less, but that they actually lose money. Therefore, investing effort into supporting diversity (which costs nothing) can provide a huge financial return!*
Another important reason to support gender diversity is that the stories told in film and tv have a huge impact on society. Studies such as the 2011 study on Racial and Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Children’s Television Use and Self-Esteem show a direct correlation between representation and the development of sense of self with traditional “television exposure predict[ing] a decrease in self-esteem for White and Black girls and Black boys, and an increase in self-esteem among White boys”. By supporting gender diversity (as well as other forms of diversity such as racial) it stands to reason that productions can help instill a positive sense of self by hiring diversely and creating authentic stories.
So how can productions adequately support gender diversity on set? Here are 10 ways to improve your on-set culture for individuals of any and every gender:
*It is important to note that while having a diverse cast and crew is important in supporting financial success, according to the study done at UCLA, “numerical diversity on or behind screen does not automatically translate to AIR. […] To truly support AIR, a movie must not only include diverse talent and decision-makers, but the story itself must be authentic and inclusive with respect to the social and cultural context.
- Introduce yourself with your pronouns
- Ask your coworkers what pronouns they use
- Put peoples’ pronouns on the call sheet
- Put peoples’ pronouns on any identifying equipment
- Educate individuals that are misgendering their coworkers
- Designate gender-neutral bathrooms on-set
- Confirm what name individuals want to be credited with onscreen
- Use gender-neutral language when speaking to coworkers
- Advocate for equal pay
- Establish clear pathways for reporting & addressing discrimination, harassment, & assault
#1 Introduce yourself with your pronouns
Why is it important to introduce yourself with your pronouns?
Introducing yourself with your pronouns signals to others that you understand and respect the use of people’s gender pronouns. It might seem like a small act, but studies show that public use of pronouns impacts organizational attractiveness and commitment for members of the LGBTQ+ community when determining if their work environment is somewhere they would be interested in continuing to pursue work.
So how do you introduce yourself with your pronouns?
There are 3 types of pronouns people typically use in everyday language, commonly thought of as feminine, masculine, and gender-neutral.
|Subject Pronouns||Object Pronouns||Possessive Adjectives||Possessive Pronouns||Reflexive Pronouns|
Here are some examples:
People use more than these three types of pronouns though. An individual might use neopronouns, no pronouns, or pronouns unique to how they identify.
Even if you’ve never encountered someone who uses pronouns other than he or she, the likelihood that you will be is going up. According to a 2020 study done by The Trevor Project, 25% of LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 – 24 “use they/them exclusively, a combination of he/him, she/her, or they/them, or neopronouns such as ze/zir or fae/faer.” Considering LGBTQ+ people compose 20% of the Gen Z population, that likelihood is pretty high – about 5 out of 100. And that’s not even taking into consideration other generations or the fact that LGBTQIA+ identification is on the rise throughout society which means that likelihood goes up significantly.
This change is reflected in what people expect to see on screen as well, with “81% of non-LGBTQ people expect[ing] that nonbinary and transgender people will become a more familiar part of life just as gay and lesbian people have.” And because the likelihood of working on a production that features a nonbinary character has gone up, the likelihood of working with an actor on set who identifies similarly has increased as well, making this critical information for anyone working in the film or television industry.
So what are some of the more frequently used neopronouns?
|Subject Pronouns||Object Pronouns||Possessive Adjectives||Possessive Pronouns||Reflexive Pronouns|
How do you use them in a sentence? Here are some examples:
#2 Ask your coworkers what pronouns they use
Asking someone what pronouns they use is the best way to ensure you are gendering someone correctly. It’s also really easy to do! Simply ask what pronouns they would like you to use.
Why it’s better to just say “pronouns” instead of “preferred pronouns”
The pronouns someone chooses to use are often an important reflection of their gender. By adding “preferred,” it implies that using someone’s correct pronouns is a choice or nicety and is up to the discretion of the speaker. This is not the case. Gendering someone correctly and using their chosen pronouns is an act of basic human rights granted to most cisgendered people.
This being said, one of the nuances of gender diversity is that some individuals who use multiple pronouns might have preferred pronouns. For instance, someone might use they/them/theirs, Xe/Xem/Xyers, and she/her/hers pronouns but they might only use or identify with one of them on any given day. Alternatively, they might use all of them at once but have a preference for which you use. In these cases, the individual will most likely volunteer this information so there is still no need to ask what their “preferred pronouns” are. If someone tells you they use different pronouns on different days, it should be noted that it is important to ask the individual at the beginning of each workday what pronouns they would like you to use.
#3 Put peoples’ pronouns on the call sheet
Including pronouns on the call sheet is an easy way to encourage cast and crew members to use peoples’ correct pronouns by giving them the information ahead of their arrival on set! There are two simple ways to include peoples’ pronouns:
|Producer||Alicia Moore (she/her/hers, they/them/theirs)||***-***-****||8:00 AM||8:00 PM|
|Director||Dylan Samuels (he/him/his)||***-***-****||8:00 AM||8:00 PM|
|Producer||Alicia Moore||she/her/hers, they/them/theirs||***-***_****||8:00 AM||8:00 PM|
|Director||Dylan Samuels||he/him/his||***-***_****||8:00 AM||8:00 PM|
#4 Put peoples’ pronouns on any identifying equipment
Masks, badges, folders, chairs, etc are all excellent places to remind other individuals of their coworkers’ correct pronouns. Putting pronouns on identifying equipment provides a visual reminder of what pronouns someone uses so that individuals don’t have to go through the labor of reminding those around them. While some people’s pronouns might seem obvious, using them frequently in a visual way is a great chance to equitably support people of all genders because it puts less emphasis on the individual to educate their coworkers and instead creates an inclusive work environment for everyone.
#5 Educate individuals that are misgendering their coworkers
If you hear someone misgendering another individual on-set, let them know and encourage them to practice using that person’s correct pronouns 3 times. Don’t leave it to the individual being misgendered to correct someone. This is mentally taxing and makes the workday harder for trans and nonbinary individuals. Having a third party correct any instances of misgendering also establishes that the community norm is to respect everyone’s gender identity – putting the emphasis to adapt on the person causing harm instead of creating a dynamic of othering for the person being misgendered.
#6 Designate gender-neutral bathrooms on-set
Designating gender-neutral bathrooms on-set is important because it gives everyone equal access to facilities. Any (or every) bathroom can be gender-neutral without any major changes. Just print one of the signs pictured here and tape it up to let people know!
Considerations For On Set Bathrooms
- If there are multiple bathrooms available, designate the one closest to set as gender-neutral so that it provides access for everyone equally.
- Provide period products in every restroom (even the men’s room) because people of every gender experience periods. Someone who experiences irregular or heavy periods might unexpectedly find themselves in need so by providing a few tampons and pads individuals can easily meet their own needs without stepping away from work.
- Ensure there is a handicap-accessible bathroom that is gender-neutral. This means that all facilities are accessible including the toilet, sink, soap, door, toilet paper, and period products.
- Make sure there is space for anyone nursing to pump when needed.
#7 Confirm what name individuals want to be credited with onscreen
Check-in with each individual before the final cut to see how they want to be credited. Name changes are common for a variety of reasons including marriage, transition, and more. Someone might choose not to go by their legal name and this should be respected as well.
If a cast or crew member transitions and chooses a new name for themselves after release, producers should endeavor to change the credits to the best of their abilities. This means changing all digital copies and updating any streaming services of the change.
#8 Use gender-neutral language when speaking to coworkers
Using gender-neutral language when speaking to coworkers ensures everyone can feel included in the conversation. Here are some common phrases on set and alternatives to use:
|Guys||Folks, Folx, Coworkers, Crew, Creatives, Everyone|
|Cameramen||Camera Operators, Camera People|
|Good Guy/Bad Guy||Hero/Villain, Protagonist/Antagonist, Heroix/Villainix|
|Crewmen||Crew, Crew People|
#9 Advocate for equal pay
Equal pay for equal work is probably the most broadly discussed point on this list with a long history of legal action, publicity, and activism. It’s something women (and others) have been fighting for since the 1800s and yet it remains elusive across all industries and professions, especially the entertainment industry. In a study focusing on pay discrepancy in films from 1984 to 2018, Roberto Pedace found a salary gap of around 45% between male and female actors which is higher than the national average of 36% – 16% from that same time period.  These studies do not have the breadth to truly illuminate the complex nature of these issues though, with intersectionality impacting the wage gap as well including race, ability, gender beyond the binary, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, etc. Typically these identities have negative financial impacts for individuals. But ultimately, most individuals working both in front of and behind the camera (other than men) are underrepresented and underpaid consistently.
So what are some actions to take, even if you aren’t in charge of the budget?
- Talk about your salary with others on set and in your profession
- Share your rates online (such as websites, industry-related groups, job postings, etc)
- Offer to take a pay cut if someone is making less than you for the same job
- Work on productions that place diverse individuals in decision making positions such as producers, directors, and casting agents
#10 Establish clear pathways for reporting & addressing discrimination, harassment, & assault
A reporting pathway (or pathway of support) is a pre-designed route to inform productions about instances of discrimination, harassment, and assault and take steps to resolve the problem. Typically a reporting pathway has points of contact – designated individuals, organizations, or institutions – that are trained to listen non-judgmentally and effect change when needed.
Establishing clear reporting pathways are arguably the most important step on this list that productions can take to support gender diversity on-set and reduce instances of discrimination, harassment, and assault. That is because creating a pathway for people to voice their experiences is the best tool to address issues as they arise. This is especially important in an industry where there is typically no PR department or oversight. And unfortunately, even with the best intentions, there is no way to be prepared for every possible scenario that may arise. So, creating a pathway of support is the best way for productions to create a safer work environment for cast and crew members.
What to consider when creating a Pathway of Support
- Establish multiple points of contact to report discrimination, harassment, and assault
- Make sure everyone present on set knows each point of contact
- Have a plan in place for how to respond
- Follow up after reports whenever possible
Are you interested in creating Pathways of Support for your production? Book an intimacy consultation where I help you not only develop pathways, but test them so that you are prepared and know how to respond when they are used!
On average, each instance of workplace sexual harassment costs about $1,053 per person to the economy.The economic costs of sexual harassment in the workplace 
Why is it critical to create a pathway of support?
Interested in supporting diversity on your set? Acacia provides gender and LGBTQIA+ consultations!
Gender and LGBTQIA+ consultation are designed to help productions tell stories with more authentically inclusive representation (AIR) and support the diverse creatives behind them.
- Script Review
- Policy Review
- On-Set Support
To learn more, send a message to learn more or book a Free 15-Minute Consultation!
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Badgett, M.V. Lee, Holning Lau, Brad Sears, and Deborah Ho. Rep. Bias in the Workplace: Consistent Evidence of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination, June 2007. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/bias-in-the-workplace/.
Doward, Jamie, and Tali Fraser. “Hollywood’s Gender Pay Gap Revealed: Male Stars Earn $1m More per Film than Women.” The Guardian, September 15, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/15/hollywoods-gender-pay-gap-revealed-male-stars-earn-1m-more-per-film-than-women.
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