Actors join forces against gendered ageism on screen

Actors ranging from David Tennant to Juliet Stevenson and Meera Syal have called on broadcasters and film makers to ensure older women are represented on screen as much as men.



An open letter calling for more roles for women over 45 on tv and in film has been signed by leading actresses and actors, including Juliet Stevenson, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar and David Tennant.

The letter was coordinated by Nicky Clark, whose Acting your age campaign has highlighted gendered ageism in the media for the last four years.

She says all initiatives for 50: 50 Gender Equality should include age, although they currently don’t with women often disappearing or being sidelined after the age of 45.

The letter says that last year the BAFTA TV awards couldn’t find a single woman over the age of 38 for their leading TV actress category. “Despite a crucial and beautifully diverse line-up of actresses, all of them were under 38. In the men’s equivalent category there were two men over the age of 45,” it states.

The Acting your age campaign found that over 21 years of the BAFTAs, the average age of nominees in the leading TV actress category had fallen from average age 52 to a shocking average age 32.

In the men’s leading TV actor category, the average age of nominees had fallen too but only from age 48 to age 45.

The campaign has been repeatedly told by writers submitting scripts and ideas for dramas, comedies and features that the ages of the leading characters are routinely aged down by commissioners, producers and production companies.

Moreover its survey data shows that whilst 49% of audiences can easily name more than 20 leading male actors in middle age, only 9% of audiences can name more than 20 leading actresses in middle age on UK screens.

The letter says: “Currently on screen in the UK men have a whole life and women only a shelf life.” The campaign says this has a much wider impact as older women don’t see their experience and views reflected on the media.

The signatories are calling for gender parity in all areas of broadcasting and film, including news and discussion panels and areas such as comedy, and for all diversity initiatives across all broadcasters to ensure a range of representation based on age as well as race and ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+ and disability.

They want the  upper age limit on any new writer schemes/talent searches to be scrapped and age to become a mandatory requirement for all broadcaster diversity monitoring off and on screen. It says news pieces on women’s physical and mental health, violence against women and appearance-based news, such as items on cosmetic procedures should not be exclusively biased towards young women and celebrity based/entertainment news should feature women and men over 45 equally in terms of their achievements, with obituaries of women using recent photographs as with men.

Comments [1]

  • Kareena says:

    I am completely in agreement. It is unfair there is this inequality happening. Shame on you BAFTA. My understanding that you are BAFTA and British. There is no need to start following the ridiculous lack of parity in Hollywood. Be proud , stand free as we do here in Canada!

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