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Women Film Entrepreneurs Face ‘Grave Disparity’ in Funding, Study Finds

Pepperdine professor found that men-owned independent production companies receive more than seven times the funding

A study released by Women in Film Los Angeles finds that women-owned companies lag far behind men-owned companies in studio-subsidized film and TV deals.

The report, titled “Women Entrepreneurs in the Screen Industries: Obstacles and Opportunities” and conducted by Pepperdine University associate professor Alicia Jessop, concludes that only 18.6% of studio-subsidized film deals and 35.7% of studio-subsidized television deals were with women-owned companies and only 18% of production companies with non-studio funding were women-owned.

By comparison, the study released on Wednesday states that on average men-owned independent production companies receive more than seven times the amount of funding received by women-owned independent production companies.

Said WIF Board president Amy Baer said in a statement: “The origin of this study was actually quite personal to the WIF Board. At a 2018 Board meeting, several highly accomplished women were sharing anecdotal frustrations about the obstacles to launching enterprise in the screen industry, while constantly watching men of equal experience and stature repeatedly and successfully land investment. In commissioning this study, WIF sought to capture any data that could back up these personal stories. We wanted to examine the rate of female entrepreneurship and funding to women-owned businesses across the expanse of the entertainment industry.”

Said Jessop in the statement: “This research shows that women are more ready, educated, and capable than ever to found and lead impactful screen industry businesses. However, significant barriers continue to foreclose paths to entrepreneurship for women in the screen industry. In order to optimally reach and engage all consumers, it is essential that women have equitable pathways to entrepreneurship as men. This study provides a critical roadmap and understanding of how that can be accomplished.”

WIF CEO Kirsten Schaffer added: “There really cannot be true parity across the board in our industry until there is parity in accessing the financial resources with which entertainment entrepreneurship is built. WIF’s Entrepreneurial Pathways is in the early stages of developing new programs to support women in building businesses, large and small, in all areas of the screen industry.”

Other findings of the study:

  • Barriers to screen industry entrepreneurship faced by women include:
    • A lack of access to network relationships with individuals capable of offering or providing funding
    • Unconscious, systemic, and organizational biases that have resulted in a general assumption that women possess “less professional success and/or experience,” which is often a main prerequisite for investors looking to fund entrepreneurs
    • A lack of self-confidence by women in their own abilities to structure financing, compete for funding, and ask for the capital they need
    • Gender-based biases, including parenting obligations, that are disproportionately managed by women

The study also recommends several solutions to break down the existing barriers and provide equal opportunity for women entrepreneurs, including funding women-owned companies, expanding womens’ professional networks and increasing womens’ financial literacy.

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