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Netflix India in step with global trend of nearly 50% female representation: Srishti Behl Arya

Recently, the streaming giant released its first 'inclusion report'.

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KOLKATA: Netflix added inclusion as its cultural value in 2017. Recently, the streaming giant released its first ‘inclusion report’, which revealed that women comprised 47.1 per cent of its workforce. The company, a vocal proponent of gender equality, has featured women in the lead role in many of its original shows and films as well. The balance between an inclusive internal community and female representation on screen is being followed in India as well, Netflix India international original film director Srishti Behl Arya said.

Since joining Netflix in 2018, Behl Arya has been front and centre in building the streamer’s local content library. She has seen the industry grow and evolve – from the time when there were only a handful of women on film sets, before streaming platforms had entered the scene. She used to be the only woman on set as an assistant director; things have come a long way since then, but there is still a lot to be done. For starters, said she, we need to reach a point when we stop referring to “women director” as something extraordinary.

“As far as Netflix is concerned, we have even put out an inclusion report globally, we are showing that almost 50 per cent of our workforce is women and that’s the same thing we are seeing in India as well. Not just in the workforce but also in leadership positions,” Behl Arya shared during a virtual interaction. In 2021, the company will be working with 18 women directors and it is already collaborating with over 1,000 women creators in various roles.

She further added that last year, 50 per cent of Netflix’s film titles had a woman producer or a woman director. Nearly half of its entire content had women playing central roles. Moreover, the company is giving equal opportunity to newer people as well, rather than riding on established names alone.

“As you see all the members, you see all our subscribers are divided between male and female. When the population of the world is divided in such a way, it’s not right to not represent half the population of the world. That’s a very logical next step for us. And I think what has happened is more and more female members are also finding their voice now. That itself is giving rise to more and more stories about women and more stories, very importantly, from women’s point of view,” she noted.

Behl Arya reemphasised how Netflix is committed to diversity of all types. According to her, it will come by including more and more voices and stories, as more people want to see themselves reflected on screen.

The Netflix executive also said the change is also about giving women access to tools to aid their quest for equality and representation. The streaming giant recently created a $100 million global fund for creative equity aimed at more inclusive pipelines behind the camera. $5 million of that fund will be deployed for women all over the world. As part of the initiative, Netflix will be conducting screenwriting workshops for women over the course of a year. In India, the company had many first time female producers, writers, directors.

“The idea is to enable women to come forward and provide comfort for them to share their stories and that is something that we are actively working on. In fact, right now, in one of our titles, we have a first-time female cinematographer,” she commented.

There is a common notion that companies hire women leaders in tried and tested roles. However, the scenario is entirely different for Netflix. “We have great representation in the tech side at our Los Gatos office. We have lots of women working on our film side, all our regions, we have them in our production management, VFX, we have women working in marketing and different aspects of it. India office is also following the global trend of close to 50 per cent representation of females. There is no function we can say that is not touched by women,” she remarked.

While many OTT platforms boast their ratio of female viewership, Netflix India takes a different approach. Behl Arya clarified that Netflix does not divide viewers on the basis of gender, age. It’s the viewing of the title that matters.

“We have the same high bar for all the countries we are programming and for all the employees and the same standard, we want to maintain all our subscribers. It helps us think things a little differently from how other traditional players think,” she stated.

Overall transformation in the industry, including at Netflix, was not easy to come by. Women have increasingly stepped up in uncomfortable circumstances to prove their competence. Along with that, men also frequently supported and enabled them.

“As we break more and more bastions, we will find more and more opportunities to prove how good we are and we are here to entertain and do it really well and it just makes sense to work with more and more people bringing in the diversity,” Behl Arya shared on a confident note.

Despite the positive changes, one may observe there are only a few women in the upper echelons, which applies to video streaming services too. However, Behl Arya begged to differ. She cited the example of industry leaders like Ekta Kapoor who runs the OTT platform ALTBalaji; Reliance media segment has Jyoti Deshpande at the top, south-based Annapurna Studios CEO Supriya Yarlagadda, ex-Sony Pictures Networks’ (SPN) film production division head Sneha Rajani. Having said that, she raised an important point.

“There are women in the position but I think that we are still not used to seeing them so they stand out. That’s exactly my dream is that one day gender will not stand out because it will be so common,” she summed up.

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