An actor with two children seeking new representation has revealed how an agency turned her down because of her caring responsibilities, claiming it is reluctant to take on people who “restrict their potential opportunities”.
Emily Howlett told The Stage that her current agent is leaving the business, which has resulted in her needing new representation.
She said she had travelled to meet with agency Angel and Francis with her baby, while her other child was at school, for what she considered a “lovely, positive meeting”.
However, a week later she got an email that explained that “now is not the right time” for her to join the agency, “whilst the children are still growing up”.
“I think you will understand: it’s a bit cut-throat out there and I am reluctant to take anyone on who might, understandably, restrict their potential opportunities, however valid the reason,” the agency told her.
Howlett said the reply had made her feel “really bad” that she had let them down by having children.
“Bearing in mind that I said in the meeting that I have a lot of support, so generally the only things I can’t do are long theatre tours, I was a bit surprised that they thought my opportunities were so restricted,” she said.
She added: “Some of the roles I’ve had I got because I was absolutely the best person for the job, and so the teams involved were happy to take me along with whatever needed to be put in place. I know that there are companies out there happy to support parents. But if the agencies aren’t supporting us, we don’t get in the room.”
Howlett said she was able to understand the agency’s position, as it needs “to run a viable business”.
“It was another of those times where you really feel unwelcome as a parent in the industry. For a second, it made me question my choices – without a doubt I would have a much bigger CV if I wasn’t a parent and I absolutely hate that I allowed myself to feel that way, because I adore my family, but I’m only human,” she added.
Responding, Kevin Francis, from Angel and Francis, said the agency “happily represent many actors with children and have always done so” but did not explain why Howlett was not being represented.
The news comes as campaign group Parents and Carers in Performing Arts continues to push for better conditions in the theatre industry.
Co-founder Cassie Raine told The Stage: “There is already much terrific work being achieved by PIPA partners to support carers and parents and the industry is gradually becoming more accessible for those with caring responsibilities. We need to keep working together to raise awareness and advocate for best practice to ensure the sector is unified in its vision for an inclusive industry.”