The gendered contexts of screenwriting work
: Socialized recruitment and judgments of taste and talent in the UK film industry

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A substantial amount of data is available to illustrate just how few films have women in key creative positions, and how little the situation is changing. Critical sociological studies of work in creative industries have revealed a reestablishment of inequality along traditional lines such as gender but reasons for this continued inequality has only recently become a focus of creative labour studies. This thesis examines the dynamics of socialized recruitment processes that rely on subjective judgments of creative talent and ability. I identify the rhetorical work done in the UK film industry whereby these practices have become accepted as natural and unproblematic even by those they seemingly disadvantage. It is informed by key thinking from the fields of creative industries, cultural studies and gender and work, and introduces new empirical data from interviews with screenwriters and their employers, to examine how inequality of opportunity is sustained through structural and subjective mechanisms that are not held accountable through equal opportunities policies. Using a Bourdieusian framework I will consider how success in creative work is less attributable to qualifications and experience than to social, economic and particularly cultural capital and the right habitus. I contend that symbolic violence is used to suppress the very discourse of the experience of women by disallowing their voices to be heard in sufficient variety as authors of feature film screenplays. My study of screenwriting labour offers a more complex explanation than is provided by the usual justifications for the lack of women in key creative roles. In this way I contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the mechanisms that perpetuate gender inequality in creative professions.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorBridget Conor (Supervisor) & Christina Scharff (Supervisor)

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