Actors including Juliet Stevenson, Meera Syal, David Tennant and Zawe Ashton have called for better onscreen representation of women older than 45 to fight against the “entrenched” ageism of the entertainment industry.
In an open letter signed by more than 100 actors and public figures, the Acting Your Age Campaign (AYAC) called for equal representation in the UK between men and women over 45 and urged immediate action on a “parity pledge”.
“Today’s in-demand young actress is tomorrow’s unemployed middle-aged actress,” it said, adding: “We are fighting to ensure that our generation of excluded women is the last generation of excluded women.”
Women in the UK only have a “shelf life” on screen while their male colleagues have a “whole life”, it claims.
Also among the signatories are Keeley Hawes, Lesley Manville, Richard E Grant, Sanjeev Bhaskar and the campaign’s founder, Nicky Clark.
“Ageism targeting women is an entrenched industry staple that is outdated, harmful and neglects the millions of audience members who appreciate seeing women over 45 telling the stories of our lives,” the letter states.
The group, which was founded four years ago, laid out multiple recommendations for broadcast and production company commissioners, as well as for news and current affairs.
Among the recommendations are that all onscreen fictional content and light entertainment programmes with male and female leads or presenters should have 50:50 equal gender and age representation.
It also calls for writer/performer dramas and comedy commissioning to feature 50:50 age and gender parity in programming, and for all broadcaster diversity initiatives to incorporate age.
In news, it says presenters of documentaries should be represented equally, with 50:50 gender initiatives to include age parity between women and men who are 45-plus. It also calls for age parity in political panels, discussions, news packages and studio guests. “A panel of only middle-aged men and young women is dated and unrepresentative,” it states.
Additionally, it states that news pieces on women’s physical and mental health and violence against women “shouldn’t have exclusive bias towards young women”. While celebrity and entertainment news should feature women and men over 45 equally and use recent photographs.
“This isn’t an attack of artistic freedom,” the letter states. “This is highlighting that too often excluding older women is enabled through the cloak of artistic choices.”