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Leading actors including Emma Thompson call for gender parity on stage and screen by 2020

Emma Thompson. Photo: Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock
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A campaign group backed by actors including Emma Thompson, Olivia Colman and Denise Gough is calling on leading theatres and broadcasters to achieve a 50/50 gender split across their content by 2020.

Thompson labelled the move “the most important initiative in our culture” and said it was “vital” that people got behind it.

A New Era: It’s Time is led by ERA 50:50, an initiative set up in 2015 by Elizabeth Berrington and Polly Kemp that aims to raise awareness of the imbalance of women on stages and screen.

50:50 gender casting campaign gets union backing

The movement started with high-profile performers wearing badges to in support of the initiative, but It’s Time sets out a definite target for the entertainment sector – urging overall representation of women and men to be balanced across yearly content or seasons by 2020.

The organisers said this would mean that “overall representation of men and women is balanced across a period of time, while still allowing for different gender-balances within individual productions”.

Thompson said: “It is absolutely vital that all persons in this industry help this group of women to bring about change that has to happen if any of our generation are going to be able to hold up our heads and say we actually did something instead of ignoring it.”

She added: “So please, get involved as it is the most important initiative in our culture.”

Co-founder Berrington said the industry had reached “a tipping point” and that those working within theatre and television understood that the way women are represented was damaging to both women and society itself.

“The lack of female faces distorts that image and the message it sends out has a detrimental effect on all of us,” she added, claiming the imbalance had to be restored for future generations.

According to ERA 50:50, there are two men for every one woman on film, television and in theatre.

The campaign has won the support of London mayor Sadiq Khan, who said it was “unacceptable that your gender can still determine your opportunities in life”.

“It’s so important for young women pursuing their career to have positive role models to aspire to. Throughout this year and beyond, I will be working with every sector to redouble our efforts in the fight for gender equality, and doing all we can to remove any barriers to women’s success so that everybody can unlock their full potential,” he said.

A New Era: It’s Time will gather together 250 of the most powerful names in theatre, film and broadcasting on February 28, when they will be urged to meet the target set by the initiative. MPs will also attend the event, which will be held at BAFTA.

The campaign is backed by Equity, Spotlight and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

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