Trailblazers #GALSNGEAR

Posted on Jun 20, 2024 by Samara Husbands

Nicola Foley sits down with Amy DeLouise, the founder of an initiative working hard to bring parity to women in screen media

I felt like things weren’t changing fast enough,” says Amy DeLouise when asked why she founded #GALSNGEAR, a growing movement to bring equity to women working in media and entertainment. An industry veteran, DeLouise has had a long career in the business, starting with working in the location department on feature films, before moving into various roles in the art department where she worked alongside directors including Robert Zemeckis and Oliver Stone. All the while, she was working her way up smaller nonfiction productions – from writer to associate producer, and finally launching her own company which specialises in storytelling for nonprofits.

As she made her way up the ladder, DeLouise noticed the conspicuous absence of women working behind the scenes. “Most of the time, women were in the hair and makeup department, or maybe the art department,” she says. “Not many were in positions calling the shots – which was one of the reasons I ended up founding my own production company,” she explains.

Motivated to drive change, DeLouise started working with Women in Film and Video, eventually becoming president. “I then started speaking at industry events like NAB Show and found there were not enough women talking about technical subjects. They’re often the moderator, but not the actual experts,” she observes.

A particularly revelatory moment came one year at NAB Show when DeLouise realised there wasn’t a single other person in the ladies’ bathroom. “I thought to myself, where is everybody?!” she recalls. It was the push she needed to make #GALSNGEAR a reality, laying the foundations for a community that would propel progress through supporting, educating, and amplifying women’s voices across the industry.

This was back in 2016, and since then the side project has certainly kept her busy. The group has placed more than 350 women as speakers on technical panels at events including NAB Show and IBC; launched a leadership training programme that’s helped over 600 participants; hosted networking events and created the Tequity Hub – a virtual space for the community to meet between live events. The organisation also runs the Production Intensive, an annual multi-day event which connects promising female students to a group of mentors, gives insights into potential career avenues and, crucially, positions them for job opportunities. 

Thanks to partnerships with industry giants like AWS, Adobe, Blackmagic Design and Dell, all events are sponsored and there’s no membership fee as a barrier to entry. “Anyone who wants to consider themselves part of our community is welcome,” stresses DeLouise. “We have women across every vertical, and every continent, who are part of #GALSNGEAR – and we’re constantly growing.

“We have a really diverse group of women,” she continues. “I think last year at our leadership summit, we had 20% women of colour – I’m guessing this year it’ll be the same or possibly more. It’s so important to have people from different backgrounds as there are a lot of barriers in our industry.”

Surveying the landscape currently, DeLouise does believe we’re seeing progress when it comes to gender parity – but there’s still a long way to go. “There are so many women cinematographers now, for example, but are they on the highest-budget films? Not necessarily,” she reflects. “We’re no longer at the point of entry for technical jobs: there are plenty of women engineers, women who can edit and shoot, but they’re not necessarily moving to the next level, the higher-paid level. That’s where the obstacles are.

“We’re in a business that can be very expensive, especially on the feature film side – and it’s all about minimising risk,” she continues. “When people hire a crew, they want to hire people they’ve already worked with, that know their workflow and how to troubleshoot. It’s not that they are being mean; it’s about the financial risk. We have to minimise the barriers and give people the experience in a more low-risk situation: this way they can get the skillset and advance to the next level.”

For any women seeking to enter or advance in male-dominated areas, DeLouise stresses the need to create your own community and support network. “Build your own board of directors for your career – people you can go to for help with decisions, perhaps to roleplay a conversation you’re going to have with your boss or your colleagues,” she advises. “This will help you feel confident to move forward in whatever way you wish.”

For real and lasting change, support of the whole industry is critical, says DeLouise. “We’re not just having a party by ourselves – yes, it’s women talking to other women, which is great, but we are also building relationships across the industry in every vertical – from production to distribution, software to hardware, content creation to content delivery – and that includes allies of every gender, colour, race, background. It must.”

Looking ahead, DeLouise has big goals – ideally, to help create a level playing field in which #GALSNGEAR is rendered obsolete. “In the interim, this is such a group of badass, fabulous women who enjoy each other’s company and lifting each other up. Ultimately that’s the real goal: for people to feel empowered in their career so they know who to reach out to when they need something, and they can make it happen for themselves. Nobody is doing it for them and nobody is asking them to have a separate women’s thing. They’re being integrated into the industry as the expert creators they are.”

This feature was first published in the June 2024 issue of Definition.

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