Are we there yet? Rocket Film's Sara Eolin has her say

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Sara Eolin
Executive producer/managing partner
Rocket Film

Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem.

While in Cannes, I’d introduce myself as one of the owners of Rocket Film and the response was usually, "oh wow! That’s great!" That’s a gracious and positive response, but it’s also one of surprise. Surprise as I look young (... I hope??) to be an owner? Not 10 minutes later, a man that was probably 27 said he owned his own company and the response was, "cool." That’s the difference in being surprised.

It’s the same with my female director talent. When they say they’re directors, the next question was often, "of what?" The answer of film, TV, documentaries and commercial content again elicited the same enthusiastic support but accompanying shock. That shock and surprise has to fall away. When female owners and female directors are just owners and directors -- that’s the progress we need. When we have equal footing, that’s when we’ve reached equality. We don’t need qualifiers when we’re not outliers.

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

When I started in the business 20 years ago, I could count the female directors on one hand, maybe two. If you eliminated the females who only worked on beauty and "feminine jobs," it was absolutely only one hand. If you look at the roster on Free the Bid, it’s a gloriously robust and diverse group of directors and it keeps growing. There may still be surprise in having a female director, but it’s no longer unheard of. The fact that big brands and agencies noticed this was a problem and stepped up to make sure women were getting a fair shake has changed the industry for the better. It’s made women feel like there is a pathway for them.

What else needs to be done to get there?

Our industry can’t change the world as a whole, and the world as a whole needs to evolve. Everyone needs to think about if they’re being inclusive and fair. It starts with one person making a change and showing others that it can be done. While we’re making headway on female equality, there’s still a huge lack of racial diversity in production.

Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) has definitely helped, but there needs to be outreach on the high school and collegiate level to give more young people access to training and mentorships.

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