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The Real Cost of Childcare: Motherhood and Flexible Creative Labour in the UK Film Industry - Review Essay


Natalie Wreyford

About Natalie
Natalie Wreyford has worked in the British film industry for over 14 years, including 7 years at the UK Film Council. She has a Masters Degree in Radio Production (with Distinction) from Goldsmiths College, University of London and a BA English Language and Literature from Manchester University. Her research is borne of her many years working in the British film industry. Despite the continued importance of film as a medium through which individuals can explore the world and our roles within it, women do not have the chance to see representations of themselves or their lives as often or in as much variety as men. Natalie's research aims to explore the scale of the gender imbalance between the number of male and female screenwriters working in the UK and the possible reasons for it. She aims to really understand the employment issues and working practices common in the British film industry and how these might affect the chances of women hoping to be considered as writers of films. She will explore the industry's widespread acceptance of nepotism as a recruitment tool and the excuses made for inequality of opportunities including the nature of the small businesses that make up a large part of the British film industry and the conflicting demands of art-form versus commercial enterprise. A study of unconscious discrimination and the power of myth in creating prejudices will explore the unspoken barriers which women face when looking for employment and how those have often been internalized by the women themselves who are reluctant to be singled out for gender-specific opportunities.
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There is one clear factor that leads to women's inequality in the labour market: "becoming mothers" (The Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, 2007). It is difficult to talk about women and work without talking about childcare. The same would not be true about a discussion of men and work and this is still one of the most obvious difficulties to be managed by working women, even those who choose not to have children. It is the potential of all women to have children and the associated disruption to their career that can lead to women being perceived as less worthy of investment – of time, of career advice, of promotion and even of pay (Fitt and Newton, 1981, Groysberg, 2008, McGuire, 2002, Wajcman, 1998). In the UK film industry, only 14% of women have children compared to 40% of men (Skillset and UK Film Council, 2008). Work in the UK film industry shares many traits of other creative professions such as flexible working hours, project-based employment, uncertainty, precariousness and irregular and often unreliable payment. Skillset's report on the status of women in the creative industries in the UK found that representation is highest in sectors comprising larger employers in which more stable, permanent employment models are common, such as terrestrial television (48%), broadcast radio (47%), cinema exhibition (43%), and book publishing (61%) (Skillset, 2010). This paper considers the hidden inequalities in the apparent freedom of a creative professions such as the UK film industry, paying particular attention to the role of the screenwriter in order to illustrate how continued gendered assumptions about a women's role as a mother and the primary carer for children can impact on their career opportunities in a creative industry.

How to Cite: Wreyford, N., 2013. The Real Cost of Childcare: Motherhood and Flexible Creative Labour in the UK Film Industry - Review Essay. Studies in the Maternal, 5(2), pp.1–22. DOI:
Published on 01 Jul 2013.
Peer Reviewed


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