Representation matters. That’s true whether we’re talking about representation in boardrooms, or in art. In some respects, we have come a long way in the past decade in the US to adopt gender parity, but we have come nowhere near far enough.
Hollywood, the industry in which I’ve worked for 15 years, continues to lag behind. But we may have even more work to do to reach equality in other creative fields, especially the emerging media of NFTs.
The “Bad Moms” model
I know from personal experience that catering to more than just half the audience, and representing that audience both in front of the camera and behind it, can be immensely powerful in that metric most highly prized by business leaders: profitability.
While I was president of the movie and television studio STX Entertainment, we released “Bad Moms,” a movie that almost exclusively starred women: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell, Christina Applegate and Jada Pinkett Smith. Women were also integral to the behind-the-scenes creative process of the film, with female producers and a female editor on board the project. When women are decision makers, a project has a more diverse and representational team from start to finish.
“Bad Moms” went on to become one of the most highly profitable films of the decade (grossing over nine times its budget) based on intense word-of-mouth from female audiences and female-centric outlets like “mommy blogs.”
But it’s apparent that we need to do more in Hollywood. Only 14 of the 100 top movies in 2019 featured a gender-balanced cast and only 29% of 2020’s top-grossing films had a female protagonist, even though we know that films with at least one female director or writer are more likely to pass the Bech test. We clearly still have a lot of change to accomplish.
Media and art — whether movies, TV, music, or NFTs — are a tool for such voices to reach and educate the broader world on a more inclusive point of view. In the entertainment industry, this influence is exceptionally important: Art and culture have the ability to change hearts and minds. There’s perhaps no greater opportunity to accomplish this than in the emerging field of web3.
Rather than breaking the glass ceiling, a chance to not build it
In the short time that NFTs have materialized into a transformational means of creative expression, the gender ratio is still woeful. According to Forrester Research since last year, nearly three times as many men own NFTs as women. The ratio is even worse on the creative side; another study has shown that only 16% of NFT artists are women.
NFTs are a fresh source of creativity and innovation, and decentralization can in theory be a solution to longstanding barriers to entry for women, but decentralization in purpose hasn’t resulted in gender parity. This is a moment in time to embrace these new technologies to break down antiquated gender barriers. It’s long past time for leaders like us to recognize that we don’t need to break the glass ceiling, but rather to ensure that no ceilings exist at all. If NFTs are to become a creative medium of the future, then representation in the space is critical.
High-profile, female-first projects like “Women of Crypto” are a fantastic push towards gender parity, but there has to be a deeper movement across the NFT landscape to make sure that women are equally represented throughout.
Universities like to spotlight their contributions to blockchain as a new form of computing, and many of the Hollywood-adjacent universities like UCLA, USC and SDSU have been integral in studying gender representation in front of and behind the camera through initiatives like the Hollywood Diversity Report , the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film. Perhaps those universities most intensely involved with blockchain should also devote resources to studying current gender issues in crypto and NFTs, while helping to formulate solutions that can help improve the gender imbalance in the industry.
One of the greatest advantages of NFTs is just how new the whole enterprise is. There’s no need to rebuild the wheel because the wheel itself is still being built. Those that account for the total audience, not just half, and who draw from a whole and gender-balanced community of skilled creatives, will be the visionaries who can make something like the “Bad Moms” of NFTs. And in the process, it will help build a crypto landscape that practices what it preaches on topics like equity and decentralization.
Sophie Watts is the co-founder and executive chairperson of metacurium, a leading web3 creative studio for A-list talent and global brands. She has an expertise in venture creation for A-list stars, including co-founding “Mike Tyson’s Legends Only League,” the sports enterprise which in November 2020 staged the Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. fight — the eighth most profitable pay-per- view event of all time. Previously, Watts served as the president of STX Entertainment. She previously worked in music, film, videos and programming in London.