Since establishing in 2010, the Natalie Miller Fellowship (NMF) has become the premier organisation generating activity and discussion about female leadership and we have built the brand throughout all sectors of the Australian screen industry. It has stimulated initiatives with State funding bodies, put women’s leadership on the agenda at major industry conferences and offered an annual fellowship of $10,000 to assist a woman realise her leadership potential. It is now time to expand the work of the organisation beyond offering an annual fellowship and networking events and broaden the scope to delivering targeted and meaningful leadership and mentoring programs to women. We have a large database of potential women leaders, we have the industry credibility and we believe our proposal below can propel more women into leadership positions. Specifically, we propose to strategically connect future women leaders with each other and with key decision makers in the screen industry.
The Screen Australia Brilliant Careers funding will enable us to engage a Project Director and Project Manager to devise, manage and deliver a tailored leadership and mentoring program over a period of 12 months to a broad cross-section of women as well as enable the NMF to raise industry funding to secure the future of the NMF and its programs into the future. This program is to be titled the NMF BRILLIANT CAREERS LEADERSHIP PROGRAM.
Big picture rationale
The Australian screen industry is an incredibly complex ecosystem and it is largely shaped by the management of risk and opportunity, capital and cultural policy, audience taste and by the flow of really good ideas. The leaders and decision makers in this landscape – the exhibitors, distributors, sales agents, investors, producers, directors and writers – are overwhelmingly male. If the whole industry is to grow into the future and prosper, it cannot ignore the untapped creative talent and leadership potential of women.
It is fair to say that over the thirty-five or so years that the gender equity issue for women in the screen industry has been on the table, the equity and the cultural diversity arguments have failed dismally to shift the consistently poor representation of women in creative and business leadership roles – directors, producers and writers. Nor has there been a shift in the number of women leaders amongst the exhibitors, distributors, sales agents, investors, and broadcasters that drive the business and decide what should be programmed upon our cinema and television screens.
In order to convince screen business leaders that there is a business case to include more women in their ranks, we need to show them that opportunity exists to build capacity. That is, there is talent within their organisations and in the wider industry that is currently being overlooked. This is where the NMF can make an important intervention.
Statistically, the next generation of women leaders were leaving school from 1980 when affirmative action policies became generally widely accepted. These women are now turning 35 – 45 years old and are the beneficiaries of heightened expectations around women’s career paths. They are also the age at which people move from middle management into senior management and executive roles. The NMF proposes to assist women in this demographic to achieve their aims and take up key leadership roles that shape the screen industry across the board.
Finally, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that women are employed on the basis of their track record whilst their male counterparts are employed largely on the basis of their potential. It has been the experience of the NMF across three years of Fellowship applicants that there is a high percentage of women applying to do leadership courses or further training. Men are networking better and creating opportunities to convince business leaders of their confidence and their potential. While women are off attending more courses, men are nabbing the leadership opportunities.
For all of the above reasons, rather than offering yet another training program, the NMF strongly believes in offering women real connections with the very people that are in the position to be able to assist them with their leadership ambitions.
Further details about how the program will be implemented will be announced by the Natalie Miller Fellowship later this year.