In 2018, we established Not Not Smiling to celebrate International Women’s Day. It began as an event focused on representing females in the creative industry and included talks from Artists, Graphic Designers and Set Designers. It was an inspiring and uplifting day but it highlighted to us that celebrating women is not something we do on just one day of the year.
More than half of our team identify as female and so we set to grow Not Not Smiling to a year-round platform to amplify the voices of female and female-identifying creatives, enabling them to connect and share their knowledge, experience and work. Throughout this year, we’ve published a blog series featuring the perspectives and voices of women worldwide. You can read all editions here.
Since the beginning of Not Not Smiling, we have worked with charities that support and uplift women. This year, we're proud to be supporting three charities local to each of our studios: Young Women’s Trust, Hour Children, and Women’s and Girl’s Emergency Centre.
In our final Edition of this series, we’re pleased to share more about their brilliant work and get their perspective on a crucial question, ‘What can we do personally, and as a collective creative industry, to help "break the bias"?
Young Women's Trust
London, United Kingdom.
As an industry, you can practice salary transparency (say what you pay!).
"This means clearly advertising the salary that a role will pay when recruiting. When employers don't advertise a salary, they rely on women stating their own salary expectations. Because women are already likely to earn less due to the gender pay gap, their pay expectations might be lower than their male peers.
For the same reason, companies should avoid asking for current salaries as a basis for pay negotiations.
The industry could also practice flexible working from day one. This could help more young mums to stay in the workforce, should they wish to.
Employers should improve the reporting of gender pay gaps, recording pay gaps by age and ethnicity in addition to the current requirements. They should also put in place targeted action plans to improve pay equality.
Personally, you can seek out young women in your team or professional network and offer them support to help them develop in their role. This could be by helping them to build their professional networks through introductions, providing projects or opportunities which would help them to develop their skills or by offering to mentor them.
The creative industry in particular can rely on unpaid labour, particularly from young people seeking to build their portfolio. In order to be fair, accessible and inclusive, all work should be paid at least the living wage, including work experience and internships.
And finally, as creatives, you can consider how the work you produce can actively challenge stereotypes."
Young Women’s Trust offers support to young women aged 18 to 30, who are living on low or no pay and want to build a better future, through Work It Out. Work It Out is a free service that offers coaching and personalised feedback on CV and job applications.
They campaign for young women’s equality in the workplace, explore the issues that young women face such as the income gap and discrimination and, through their research, examine the challenges young women face. Their work is supported by corporate partners and charitable grants as well as fundraising activities and donations.
Young women are at the centre of the charity’s work: leading, designing and participating.
New York State, United States of America.
There is an unfortunate bias that surrounds women leaving prison. Too many times they are still seen as the person who committed the crime that sent them to prison; however, people are not the acts they may or may not have done to be incarcerated.
"For many coming to Hour Children, the woman leaving prison is very different than the woman who entered. It doesn’t matter what she went to prison for. She should not be judged on her crime…she has done her time and many of Hour women used their time in prison to become more educated, to develop improved family relationships, to work on employment prospects, and with a purpose that includes reuniting with their children.
Another bias centers around the fact that the US judicial system, at all stages, is more punitive than rehabilitative. How do we give women choice and voice to help rid the stigma of being incarcerated and labeled an “ex-con” and a bad mother? This is even more prevalent when coupled with gender bias towards women because, of course, they shouldn’t be incarcerated in the first place. The expectation is that a woman should act and behave a certain way, and she can’t be a good mother if she doesn’t, which continues to perpetuate stereotypes and inequality. There is a shame unfairly attached to women for being incarcerated which is not the same for men. Afterall, she is a mother – she is expected, again, to behave and act with some purity.
While they are in prison, women can work on their education, their parenting skills, and most important, their mental and emotional wellbeing, allowing them to leave prison with a stronger sense of self than they went in with. However, if they don’t have a place to go to build on that progress, a place that will give them the support to move forward and reunite with their children – a place like Hour Children – then they may return to the same environment that helped put them in jail in the first place.
Bringing light to these very tough issues that need changing would propel these women forward to a brighter future and would make huge strides in decreasing the recidivism rate in the United States.
Note: programs like Hour Children work because we provide the services that women need to stay out of prison – a secure home, safe affordable childcare, mental health services, and workforce training. Hour annual recidivism rate is under 5%, as compared to New York State which is over 20%."
Hour Children is a leading provider of services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in New York State. Focused on women and their children, they support families during a mother’s incarceration and help families get back on their feet upon release. They do this by providing housing, childcare, job training, and mental health services.
Women's and Girl's Emergency Center (WAGEC)
Unconscious bias affects everyone.
"By definition, bias refers to the automatic thoughts, beliefs and judgements we hold about a certain person, group or place. Biases are learned and built from our individual lived-experiences. They are layered lenses through which we see and experience the world everyday. To create a world that is safe and equal for everyone, we must actively choose to challenge the biases we might be holding and seek to understand the full story of a person, place or group.
Here are some simple and practical tools that you can use to help break the bias:
1. Centre the voices of women, gender-diverse people and marginalised groups. Gender equality depends on it.
2. Acknowledge the power of language and the privilege of having a voice (this is especially important for those of us who are working in media, politics and creative industries!) Use inclusive language and steer clear of gendered terms.
3. Take an intersectional approach. Patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and ageism all contribute to systems of power and privilege.
4. Build and uphold respectful and consensual relationships both at home, at work and in the community. Relationships make us stronger and change is only possible when we work together.
5. Remember that gender-based violence could happen to any of us. There is no “us” and “them.”
At Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC), we are guided by our feminist ethics and cultural assumptions, one being that humans thrive in harmony, safety and community. In this spirit, we encourage you to challenge your own thinking and reflect on how you treat individuals and groups in your community. Small change is social change, and your actions and decisions can help to break the bias and build gender equality."
Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC) is a feminist, grassroots organisation that supports women and families in crisis and advocates for social change in the community. They are based in Redfern, Sydney and work on the lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation.
Every night, they support 200 women and children impacted by homelessness, domestic violence and systemic disadvantage. They do this by providing material aid, case management, biopsychosocial support, accommodation, and crisis responses. Equally they seek to address the underlying causes of gender-based violence through primary prevention activities with communities and private and public entities that want to be a part of the global movement to end gender based violence in a generation.