I’m a female who has been directing for 20 years, and a member of the Directors Guild of America for 15 of those years. I mainly direct commercials.
I work in a niche market with very few other directors doing the same work. My main competitor is a male director. He has less experience than I do. However, the difference in our experience doesn’t bother me. Our industry doesn’t really run on who is more experienced. And we both enjoy high regard and success.
Two years ago, he and I were both directing commercials at the same time for the same client. We’ve both worked for this client for a number of years.
Afterwards, the female Executive Producer whom I’ve worked with for a long time, confided in me that while our commercials were nearly identical in terms of production needs (same product, different product line), my male competitor had gotten paid TWICE as much as I did.
Furthermore, he had received 50% more for his budget than I had for essentially the same job. Since we both make a percentage of the profit, I had made less money there, too. And, I had had to ask my crew to work for less money.
You would think that my being able to do the job for half the directing fee and bring in the same job for less money would be a plus for me. I guess not.
The Exec Producer told me that she asked the male Vice President of Marketing (who has the power to request the director) why the male director had gotten paid more than I did. His response was that the male director was considered a “Premium Director.”
When the she said that she had never heard of that before, and asked why he thought my competitor was “Premium,” the Vice President wasn’t able or willing to explain.
The Executive Producer told me that she felt certain I got paid less because I am a woman.
My experience is that men and women do not realize (or admit) that they may have a gender bias. It is an engrained response to envisioning a director as looking and acting a certain way given what the norm has been.
In most people’s mind’s eye, a director looks like a white male.
Is there gender bias? Well, the numbers don’t lie.