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.[1] 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”.[2] 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:

Beyond Checking A Box: A Lack Of Authentically Inclusive Representation (AIR) Has Costs At The Box Office
Gerald D. Higginbotham, C. Phil, Zhanpeng Zheng, Yalda T. Uhls, PhD
UCLA Center For Scholars and Storytellers

*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.

  1. Introduce yourself with your pronouns
  2. Ask your coworkers what pronouns they use
  3. Put peoples’ pronouns on the call sheet
  4. Put peoples’ pronouns on any identifying equipment
  5. Educate individuals that are misgendering their coworkers
  6. Designate gender-neutral bathrooms on-set
  7. Confirm what name individuals want to be credited with onscreen
  8. Use gender-neutral language when speaking to coworkers
  9. Advocate for equal pay
  10. 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.[3]

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 PronounsObject PronounsPossessive AdjectivesPossessive PronounsReflexive Pronouns
SheHerHerHersHerself
HeHimHisHisHimself
TheyThemTheirTheirsThemselves

Here are some examples:

“I’m Sammy. I use he, him, his and they, them, theirs pronouns.”
“My name is Alex. I use she, her, hers pronouns.”
“My name is Bo and I am okay with any pronouns.”

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.”[4] Considering LGBTQ+ people compose 20% of the Gen Z population, that likelihood is pretty high – about 5 out of 100.[5] 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.

The Trevor Project [4]
A circle graph states that 75% of Generation Z uses only he/him or she/her pronouns and 25% of Generation Z uses pronouns beyond the binary. Of that 25%, 16% use a combination of he, she, and/or they, 5% use they/them only, and 4% use neopronouns and combinations using neopronouns.
Gallup [5]
A line graph titled Americans’ Self-Identification as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Something Other Than Heterosexual demonstrates that the % of people polled identified as LGBT. In 2012 3.5% of respondents identified as LGBT with a steady increase of 0.1% – 0.4% every year until 2018 and 2019 when individuals were not polled. It is notable that there is an increase of 1.1% between 2017 – 2020 and a notable increase of 1.5% between 2020 and 2021 (the first year of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States). Respondents who volunteered another identity (e.g., queer, same-gender-loving; pansexual) were recorded as Other LGBT by interviewers. These responses were included in the LGBT estimate.
Gallup [5]
A table titled Americans’ Self-Identification as LGBT, by Generation states the percentage of respondents in each generation that identified as LGBT, Straight/Heterosexual, or offered No Response. Of Generation Z (born 1997-2003) 20.8% identified as LGBT, 75.7% identified as Straight/Heterosexual, and 3.5% offered No Response. Of Millennials (born 1981-1996) 10.5% identified as LGBT, 82.5% identified as Straight/Heterosexual, and 7.1 present offered No Response. Of Generation X (born 1965-1980) 4.2% identified as LGBT, 89.3% identified as Straight/Heterosexual, and 6.5% offered No Response. Of Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) 2.6% identified as LGBT, 90.7% identified as Straight/Heterosexual, and 6.8% offered No Response. Of Traditionalists (born before 1946) 0.8% identified as LGBT, 92.2% identified as Straight/Heterosexual, and 7.1% offered No Response. It is worth noting that the percentage of people who identify as LGBT goes up the more recently they were born.

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.”[6] 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 PronounsObject PronounsPossessive AdjectivesPossessive PronounsReflexive Pronouns
FaeFaerFaerFaersFaerself
XeXemXyrXyersXemself
ZeZirZirZirsZirself
PerPerPersPersPerself
VeVerVisVisVerself

How do you use them in a sentence? Here are some examples:

“Ve are in the green room. Tell ver that ve have 5 minutes before ve need to be on set.”
“Fae need to adjust the mic. Let fear through for a minute.”
“Have you seen per? Pers scene is coming up.”

#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.

“What pronouns would you like me to use for you?”
“I use fae/faer or she/her pronouns. Thanks for asking!”

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:

PositionNamePhoneInOut
ProducerAlicia Moore (she/her/hers, they/them/theirs)***-***-****8:00 AM8:00 PM
DirectorDylan Samuels (he/him/his)***-***-****8:00 AM8:00 PM
Option 1
PositionNamePronounsPhoneInOut
ProducerAlicia Mooreshe/her/hers, they/them/theirs***-***_****8:00 AM8:00 PM
DirectorDylan Samuelshe/him/his***-***_****8:00 AM8:00 PM
Option 2

#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:

GenderedGender-Neutral
GuysFolks, Folx, Coworkers, Crew, Creatives, Everyone
CameramenCamera Operators, Camera People
Good Guy/Bad GuyHero/Villain, Protagonist/Antagonist, Heroix/Villainix
CrewmenCrew, 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.[7] 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.[8] [9] 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?

  1. Talk about your salary with others on set and in your profession
  2. Share your rates online (such as websites, industry-related groups, job postings, etc)
  3. Offer to take a pay cut if someone is making less than you for the same job
  4. Work on productions that place diverse individuals in decision making positions such as producers, directors, and casting agents
The Conversation [8]
A scatter graph titled Hollywood salaries provides “an analysis of actor salaries for more than 100 movies released between 1984 and 2018.” It “shows that male actors tend to receive more money.” Male actors are represented as lavender and female actors are represented as yellow. Salaries range from $1,000,000 to $50,000,000 and are adjusted for inflation.

#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.[10] 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[10]

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 [11]

Why is it critical to create a pathway of support?

TedX [13]

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.

Consultations include:
  • Script Review
  • Policy Review
  • Workshop
  • On-Set Support

To learn more, send a message to learn more or book a Free 15-Minute Consultation!


Bibliography

[1] Higginbotham, Gerald D., Zhanpeng Zheng, and Yalda T. Uhls. “Beyond Checking A Box: A Lack of Authentically Inclusive Representation Has Costs At The Box Office.” Scholars and Storytellers. The Center for Scholars & Storytellers Based out of UCLA, 2020. https://acaciawillis.files.wordpress.com/2022/03/1978b-cssairfinalresearchreport.pdf.

[2] Nicole Martins, and Kristen Harrison. “Racial and Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Children’s Television Use and Self-Esteem: A Longitudinal Panel Study,” March 16, 2011. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0093650211401376.

[3] Daas, Roua. “Signaling Organizational Identity-Safety Through The Use Of Gender Pronouns.” Butler University Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection, 2021. https://digitalcommons.butler.edu/ugtheses/609/.

[4] “Pronouns Usage Among LGBTQ Youth.” The Trevor Project, July 29, 2020. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/research-briefs/pronouns-usage-among-lgbtq-youth/.

[5] Jones, Jeffrey M. “LGBT Identification in U.S. Ticks Up to 7.1%.” Gallup, February 17, 2022. https://news.gallup.com/poll/389792/lgbt-identification-ticks-up.aspx?utm_source=twitterbutton&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=sharing

[6] GLAAD. “Annual GLAAD Accelerating Acceptance Study: Over 80% of Non-LGBTQ Americans Expect Growing Familiarity with Trans and Nonbinary People.” glaad.org, November 4, 2021. https://www.glaad.org/blog/annual-glaad-accelerating-acceptance-study-over-80-non-lgbtq-americans-expect-growing.

[7] Alter, Charlotte. “Here’s the History of the Battle for Equal Pay for American Women.” Time, April 14, 2015. https://time.com/3774661/equal-pay-history/

[8] Pedace, Roberto. “Exploring the Data on Hollywood’s Gender Pay Gap.” The Conversation, December 20, 2019. https://theconversation.com/exploring-the-data-on-hollywoods-gender-pay-gap-127414

[9] Barroso, Amanda, and Anna Brown. “Gender Pay Gap in U.S. Held Steady in 2020.” Pew Research Center, May 25, 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/05/25/gender-pay-gap-facts/.

[10] Steinrock, Zev, and Terri Ciofalo. “Pathways of Reporting.” Intimacy Directors and Coordinators. Lecture presented at the Pathways of Reporting, November 22, 2021. https://www.idcprofessionals.com.

[11] Deloitte. Access Economics. “The Economic Costs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” Deloitte, March 2019. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/Economics/deloitte-au-economic-costs-sexual-harassment-workplace-240320.pdf

[13] Shaw, Julia. “The Untold Story of Witnesses of Workplace Harassment.” TEDxLondonWomen. Lecture presented at the TEDxLondonWomen, 2020. https://www.ted.com/talks/julia_shaw_the_untold_story_of_witnesses_of_workplace_harassment.


Avery, Derek R., Sabrina D. Volpone, Robert W. Stewart, Aleksandra Luksyte, Morela Hernandez, Patrick F. McKay, and Michelle (Mikki) R. Hebl. “Examining the Draw of Diversity: How Diversity Climate Perceptions Affect Job-Pursuit Intentions,” March 25, 2013. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hrm.21524

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

Lawson, Kimberly. “Why Seeing Yourself Represented on Screen Is So Important.” Vice, February 20, 2018. https://www.vice.com/en/article/zmwq3x/why-diversity-on-screen-is-important-black-panther.

Leonard, Jonathan S., and David I. Levine. “The Effect of Diversity On Turnover: A Large Case Study.” University of California, Berkeley. Accessed March 2022. http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/levine/Papers/Leonard%20%26%20Levine%20Diversity%20%26%20Turnover%20WP.pdf

“Race and the Pay Gap.” AAUW, 2019. https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/race-and-the-pay-gap/.

“16 Alarming Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Statistics You Need to Know.” Inspired eLearning, July 12, 2021. https://inspiredelearning.com/blog/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace-statistics/.


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