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British actors unite to fight “entrenched ageism” in the industry

For a better on-screen representation of older women, a wide array of well-known British actors and public figures have signed an open letter to fight the entertainment agency’s “entrenched ageism”. Signatories include Keeley Hawes, Richard E. Grant, David Tennant, Emma Thompson, Michael Sheen, Mandy Lee, Juliet Stevenson, Lesley Manville, Meera Syal and Zawe Ashton among hundreds of others. 

The Acting Your Age Campaign (AYAC) has written a searing letter that talks about the on-screen “shelf life” of female actresses in the UK while the male actors never face such discrimination throughout their “whole life”. The letter demands equal representation and “a parity pledge” for men and women aged over 45 in the UK.

This has, in turn, neglected millions of viewers from appreciating women over 45 recounting their incredible stories. 

The AYAC was founded four years ago by Acting Your Age podcast host, Nicky Clark who also created She Can’t Be Autistic. The AYAC has laid out a series of recommendations. The campaign strives to have an equal representation of gender and age in entertainment programmes for men and women. It also calls for gender and age parity among writers, presenters of documentaries and other important panels. 

They are opposed to “exclusive bias towards young women” in news pieces that talk about violence against women, and their mental and physical health. The campaign also calls for the celebrity and entertainment news columns to use recent photographs of women over 45 and represent them as much as men. 

On her website, Clark talks about how and why she founded the campaign in 2018, after presenting a chart to indicate the inherent ageist mentality in the industry. She said, “In the last  21 years of BAFTA leading TV actress awards the average age of female nominees has trended down from age 52 to age 32” while “the average age of [male] nominees has fallen from age 48 to age 45”, indicating the gender politics that come into play. 

The campaign is supported by various organisations, namely ERA 50:50, Women’s Equality Party, The Fawcett Society, Women Over 50 film festival and The Equity Women’s Committee.

Read the full list of signatories on her site.