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IWD: When will grading with a woman stop feeling like a novelty?

March 8, 2024
Emily Russul Saib on the difficulty in making yourself heard, the fear of imposter syndrome and having to advocate for yourself that bit harder.

On reflection, I feel I was lucky that when I started out my first few companies made a concerted effort to keep the machine rooms gender balanced, however, by the time I had worked at 3 different post houses I still had yet to work with a colourist who was female. When a job came up to assist a woman I had admired for a while, I jumped at the chance. The new job also meant no more night shifts, which may have also had something to do with my decision!

Now working as a colourist, I have found that there is a community of women who make the space welcoming and less isolating. It makes a difference to have a group of people who know what it can be like, on hand to offer support and ready to fight your corner. That said, I have had the opportunity to work with some really fantastic male colleagues too, that actively try and help fight any gender bias they feel in the workplace. I am not sure if they set out to fight gender inequality, or whether it just comes naturally to some more than others, but they actively, sensitively and fairly spoke up for me when I wasn’t being heard.

While women are certainly outnumbered at the moment, there are many incredibly talented colourists, who just so happen to be women, putting out really brilliant work. Over the years, I have had clients be surprised to be working with a woman, I also had a spate of clients excited to work with me as they said, “did you know women see more colours than men?”; I feel that they had all read the same article somewhere! There are plenty of talented women all over the industry, and hopefully grading with a woman will stop feeling like a novelty. I think sometimes we are just a bit harder to find and time pressure can sometimes lead to a more familiar option. 

I know for many women, pregnancy and maternity leave can be a sticking point for their career. There is never a good time, right? But scary COVID-19 stuff aside, I was ironically fortunate to have my pregnancy coincide with the pandemic. Working from home allowed me to work longer than I could have done otherwise, and switching over to maternity leave was pretty seamless as staff were coming and going all the time, as furlough had become so common. The paranoia that I had of missing too much, or work reallocating my role on my return, did mean that I didn’t take advantage of the full maternity leave. The flexibility that the pandemic gave me, to allow my job to work around my pregnancy, rather than the other way round, was really valuable both personally and professionally. Each company is different, but there is a lot of effort going into flexible and remote working, and I thank the women and men continuing to push that through, not just for women but for the benefit of everyone. I know I certainly saw more daylight and ate better with flexible working.

As with many other industries, there’s a definite difficulty in making yourself heard, the fear of imposter syndrome and having to advocate for yourself that bit harder. There are absolutely more men in technical post production roles and certainly more colourists! However, I do see more and more women’s names coming up, and that should hopefully continue.