Lack of childcare on film and television sets limits women’s careers, Carey Mulligan, star of Suffragette, said on Tuesday, with many actors feeling they have to conceal their pregnancies.
The British mother of two praised action to combat sexual harassment in entertainment in the wake of the #MeToo scandal but said she had “never” been on a set with childcare facilities, which was “limiting” for parents.
“I don’t think being a working mother in our industry has been made that much easier,” she said in an interview with the Radio Times magazine on Tuesday.
“It’s incredibly difficult.” Sex discrimination was outlawed by Britain in the 1970s, and the law prohibits employers rejecting a candidate because they are pregnant or may have a child in future.
But many employers hold views from “the dark ages” on pregnancy, seeing new mothers as less ambitious and believing it acceptable to ask job-seeking women if they have young children, Britain’s equality watchdog found this year.
More than three-quarters of workers in British television and film said their career had suffered due to parenting or caring responsibilities, a 2016 survey by Raising Films, which campaigns to make the industry more parent-friendly, found.
Mulligan said she was fortunate to have her pregnancy written into her role in the 2018 Netflix and BBC drama Collateral but generally “if people can hide it, they do”.
Long hours, freelance contracts and low pay all make it hard for parents working in entertainment, said Hope Dickson Leach, founder of Raising Films.
“The TV and film industry has notoriously terrible statistics when it comes to female talent, and this isn’t going to change until it gets serious about removing the barriers for parents and carers,” she said.
Campaigners said the issue reaches far beyond the entertainment industry.
“Motherhood is the key cause of the gender pay gap,” Joeli Brearley, founder of maternity rights campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“From the point that a woman gets pregnant she is seen as less competent and less committed. But it isn’t her ambition or dedication that should be in question, it is how companies and industries ignore the needs of working mums.”