Finally beyond the status quo? An analysis of Steps Taken to Improve Gender Equality in the European Audiovisual Sector


Three years ago, the audiovisual sector was the starting point of world-wide heated debates, protests and shocking revelations of incidences of sexual harassment against women coined under the #MeToo movement. Since then, the #MeToo movement gained steam impacting debates that went beyond Hollywood while stories came to light about harassment or assault in the workplace by often men in positions of power. While the sexual harassment allegations became the pivotal starting point of the #MeToo, the discussion rapidly expanded into other inequalities women face, such as labour conditions, salaries, leadership positions, funding, and career paths, also in Europe’s audiovisual sector.

Although there is a strong momentum in addressing the gender gaps and empowering women in Europe after the #MeToo movement, this exists side by side with a strong backlash and misogyny. Kuhar and Paternotte (2017) provide an overview of this trend where they argue that after years of steady progress in terms of gender and sexuality rights, opposition to progressive gender equality is manifested in challenges to gender mainstreaming, marriage equality, abortion, reproductive technologies, sex education, sexual liberalism, transgender rights, anti-discrimination policies, and even to the notion of gender itself. Also Banet-Weiser (2018) makes the reflection that current times demonstrate the existence of popular feminism and popular misogyny simultaneously. Because of the recent developments around the #MeToo movement and the rising backlash and misogynistic narratives around women’s issues as well, this paper argues that it is now the time to look back on the developments in the audiovisual sector in Europe and ask the question, what impact did #MeToo have on the AV sector and what can we learn from it to move forward?

Methodologically, in this study, we applied a secondary analysis methodology (Johnston, 2017). Secondary information was compiled by means of desk research and interviews with leading experts on women in the audiovisual sector in Europe. We built this paper on a meta-analysis using evaluation synthesis. We focused on two study objects: (1) reports and studies published that highlight the current situation of women in the audiovisual sector in Europe and (2) secondary data on initiatives and practices that aim to intervene and change the current situation of women in the audiovisual sector in Europe. We systematically compiled, analysed and interpreted the findings of the (1) reports and evaluated the (2) initiatives taking into account differences in contexts and methods, thus allowing in-depth, yet contextualised, learning from them. The main aim of this paper is to provide the opportunity for critical reflection on the development of the situation of women in the audiovisual sector in Europe and – we hope – to enlighten policy learning for policy makers, academics and all private and public stakeholders. The findings offer an entry point for those who seek specific support in designing and implementing interventions to the situation of women in the audiovisual sector and aim to foster academic debate about rationales, intervention logics and the opportunities and limits of analysing and understanding reports and initiatives.