As most have recently heard, WIFTV has just gotten some extra support from another community called Canadian Heritage who are helping to push for gender equality in the industry as well as proper funding. Canadian Heritage’s own Minister Guilbeault helping take on the discussion, this could mean lots of changes for the better. So I spoke with Board member Sharon McGowan on her position and how she feels about the cause. It was a rather informative conversation if I must say so myself.
HNMAG: Can you tell me what your position is is in the WIFT Community?
Sharon McGowan: I’m on the board of directors of WIFTV, and I’m the co-chair of the advocacy community.
HNMAG: What are your responsibilities?
Sharon McGowan: I work with the board of directors and we each chair a committee. I chair the advocacy committee with Susan Britton. There are all kinds of members on the board, but we share the responsibilities of running the organization.
HNMAG: And how did you assist the current cause right now?
Sharon McGowan: I’ve been working on the advocacy committee for eight years now. I’ve also done advocating for a really long time, for women in the industry and other marginalized groups. I was a founding director of Women In Film, and we formed the organization in 1989 to promote women in the industry.
HNMAG: Do you have a strong and durable connection with Canadian Heritage?
Sharon McGowan: We do actually, especially since the election of the liberal government. They were elected with a gender equal cabinet, that was the first thing they established. They also established a policy of evaluating all of the government’s spending through what they call a ‘gender lens’ which is insuring that they’re taking into consideration any potential qualities in how they’re rating their decisions about spending money. And they’ve been VERY receptive since the election. We’ve met with the heritage minister, Melanie Jolie, when she the first minister, and we were in touch with Pablo Rodriguez when he was the next one. We even worked with Women In Film across Canada, we have independent chapters, and we work as part of a coalition with them and we just recently spoke with Minister Guilbeault about Gender Equity in the industry. Their general approach is supportive.
HNMAG: So with Steven Guilbeault’s taking charge of the discussion for change, you have hope for the future.
Sharon McGowan: Oh, yes. Very much so. Yeah, yeah. I think everybody realizes that things need to change and we all need to work together to find the best way to do that.
HNMAG: What will this change mean for you and many other communities?
Sharon McGowan: I think that this is a really interesting initiative, looking at the tax credits on the federal level because those are very much support to what I call ‘below the line’ jobs in the industry. People who do the craft work, like hair and makeup, catering, transport. Those kind of jobs are really good and high-paying and anything we can do to support more diverse people working in those jobs, the better it will be for the industry and the country.
HNMAG: How long have you been fighting for equality?
Sharon McGowan: (laughs) Well, I’d say ever since I started in the industry. I was very lucky to work with National Film Board’s Studio D Women’s studio that was founded in 1974 and I came out of broadcast training in 1976 then almost began immediately working on women’s projects and programs promoting women’s equality back then.