Gender stereotypes and related expectations continue to plague women across all industries around the world, and the FAME industry is certainly no exception. During FAME Week Africa 2021, which took place in October, a handful of the industry’s most respected female contributors got together to discuss the various challenges and opportunities for women operating within the sector, as well as how women in leadership can impact on a changing landscape – and they certainly had plenty of valuable insights to share!
Challenges for women in FAME (Film, Art, Media and Entertainment)
According to Tshepo Moche, Creator and Writer: Play Nice Pictures, one of the most notable challenges for women in FAME is accessibility, particularly in terms of information regarding potential career paths, knowing what technology is out there, and skill progression.
“These sorts of things are much more accessible to men,” she explains.
A lack of accessibility is a barrier for women who are looking to break into the industry, but the challenges definitely don’t end there.
“Once a woman actually manages to enter the space, the challenge evolves into successfully honing her voice, particularly if she’s a black female. Considering that I grew up internationally and have a noticeable Canadian accent, I’ve always noticed a certain amount of cushioning around me in that regard, compared to other black FAME females,” she says.
Erica Elk, Group CEO: Craft Design Institute highlights another challenge: misconceptions surrounding the industry as a whole.
“I believe one of the biggest barriers for all creatives to this day is the lack of nurturing of creative talent at school and in communities due to the various creative industries not being taken seriously. Unfortunately, these stereotypes and misconceptions are compounded when you’re a woman and even more so when you’re an African woman. It’s time for creatives to be seen and celebrated as valuable contributors to society and its wellbeing.”
Esther Pearl, Founder and Executive Director: Camp Reel Stories, agrees, speaking about how the stereotype of being a ‘starving artist’ remains firmly in place across the globe.
“We need to work on changing these perceptions and teaching young creatives that in choosing this career path, they’re walking onto a bridge to a better life as opposed to walking off a ledge, which is how society has represented such a career choice up until now.”
Networking as a career growth opportunity
While there are definitely challenges to be aware of, females in FAME are also presented with an array of opportunities for career growth – networking being just one of them. It’s a term that is often thrown around haphazardly, but what does it actually mean and how can female creatives fully harness these opportunities?
For Dr Lwazi Mzansi, Director: Spier Films South Africa, it’s as simple as showing up.
“Just show up and show up with purpose! When you have a moment to speak, don’t beat around the bush. Say what you came there to say,” she explains.
She goes on to advise women to ‘gun’ for powerful men.
“They’ll take you places you may never be able to get otherwise. Once you break into that level of ‘network’, the sky’s the limit!”
Samantha de Bruin, Founder: The SAManagement Agency, advises FAME females to also remember the importance of ‘showing up’ as who they are, not who society wants them to be … and to ‘fake it ‘til they make it’!
“Show up as your best self. After all, nobody knows you other than the version of yourself you’re putting forward. Keep in mind that putting confidence out there feeds it right back into you.”
Tshepo’s insights into the world of networking in terms of ‘showing up’ successfully? Do so honestly and authentically:
“If you don’t know or understand something, say so. Be willing and excited to learn from others.”
Final words of wisdom
To conclude, all the experts had a few words of wisdom to share with their fellow female creatives.
Erica insisted on the importance of leaders stepping up to create opportunities for other industry professionals to be seen and to see themselves in others. She also reminds women in the industry to stop thinking about their goals as a destination that they’re attempting to reach alone.
“In order to produce anything of value, a community of experts with different types and levels of expertise is required. The road to success is a collaboration and a lifelong journey. There is no end. Even when you attain success, you have to continue working to maintain it.”
Esther echoes how success is hinged on collaboration with other creatives, cautioning FAME females to be mindful of how they treat people along their journey.
Sam talks about hard work and loyalty.
“Graft hard – put in double the amount of effort compared to a male in your position. Hard work does show. Secondly, stay loyal to the people who have been there with you from the beginning and who’ve helped to lift you up. This loyalty towards the team that founded your brand will aid in ensuring that these individuals continue lifting you up and investing in your success.”
Dr Lwazi feels similarly about loyalty within the industry, particularly amongst women.
“Artists and their teams are building something together. Stay loyal and don’t be too precious about your artistry. Remain true to yourself but be willing to take advice and build on that.”
Finally, Tshepo concludes with words of wisdom surrounding maintaining the delicate FAME female ecosystem.
“Stay connected with other females within the industry who are like-minded artists of all ages and backgrounds. Tap into the unwavering connection that we all have as women, being careful to give back as you take, keeping the ecosystem healthy and flowing. In doing that, you truly find your power.”
Listen to the full discussion webinar here