“Is that sexism?”: A Thematic Analysis of the Labour Experiences of Women Working as Producers, Directors and Writers in New Zealand Television
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During the 1980s, New Zealand’s Fourth Labour Government implemented a number of economic policy changes under the international influence of neoliberalism which resulted in major deregulation and reform to New Zealand television. Despite a wealth of literature on this organisational reform and its effect on television content (Horrocks, 2004; Spicer, Powell & Emanuel, 1996; Farnsworth and Hutchison, 2002; Baker, 2012), very little research – if any – has attempted to explore the effects of these changes on employees. Additionally, while the study of gender discrimination in the screen production industries has drawn considerable academic attention overseas (Lauzen, 2012, 2015a, 2015b, 2016; Conor, 2014; Baker & Hesmondhalgh, 2015; Steele, 2013; et al), there is a dearth of research in this area in New Zealand. This exploratory study intends to establish a starting point for research on gender and labour experience in New Zealand television, guided by the question: What are the gendered labour experiences of women working as producers, directors and writers in New Zealand television? In order to answer this question, one-on-one interviews were conducted with three women who have worked for five years or more as producers, directors, and writers of television in New Zealand. Despite a small sample size, a rich data set was gathered and this was interpreted using Braun & Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis process, resulting in the identification of thirteen themes under three categories. The first category was that of working life, which included assessment of the industry as a place for women to work; how the industry has changed over the last thirty years; how the population of creative individuals in the industry might affect gender equality; the importance of support from male colleagues and superiors; and the relationship between parenthood and television careers for women. The second category encompassed opportunity structures and included the glass ceiling; exclusion as a tool of discrimination; and the gender pay gap. The final category was gender differences which included the supposed differences between men and women; the different standards for male and female behaviour; and the gendered division of labour. Despite revelations of gender discrimination, it was found that overall the participant’s descriptions of their labour experiences were characterised mainly by contradictions and difficulties in distinguishing overt or systemic sexism after the 1980s. Borrowing from a discourse analysis approach, the thesis then considers how conflicting ideologies, including those of neoliberalism, feminism, and meritocracy, might work to mediate the participants’ social reality. The research then recommends that further research focus on discourse production in the television industry to uncover the extent of the relationship between hegemonic discourses and ongoing covert sexism.