Intro: In the “Women in Streaming” series of articles, we talk to incredible women who have contributed a lot to the growth of the video streaming industry and share their stories. We decided to start this series by talking to someone known for championing and creating awareness around diversity programs, and the first name that came to our mind was Carrie Wootten.
Carrie Wootten is the Managing Director and co-owner of Rise, a nonprofit organisation to promote gender diversity across the media technology center.
Carrie was awarded the Broadcast Tech Special Recognition Award in 2021 and won Gold for Female Leader at the UK’s National Business Women’s Awards 2021. This year, SMPTE honored Carrie for her outstanding efforts to foster careers within the broadcast technology industry through her work with Rise and Rise Up Academy.
In this interview, Carrie talks about what inspired her to co-found Rise, initiatives taken by Rise to promote gender diversity across the media sector, and her advice to the women in the streaming industry.
Thank you for this interview, Carrie. Please introduce yourself and tell our readers about your career, your journey, and most importantly, what led you to start ‘Rise.’
I’m Carrie Wootten, and I’m the Managing Director and co-owner of Rise, a membership organisation for gender diversity in the media technology sector. My career has taken several different pathways, but I started in BBC Radio Drama and spent a significant part of my career at Ravensbourne University, where I was the Head of Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships. This is where I first came into direct contact with broadcast engineering and the clear lack of diversity within the media technology sector.
Rise was started by Sadie Groom, as a passion project to change the industry, and at the time there was little discussion on diversity and inclusion and minimal gender representation. We ran a small mentoring programme in 2018, which was hugely successful – this then led to us attracting more sponsorship year on year, which has enabled us to grow the organisation and develop multiple other strands of work.
And although there is still a long way to go, the fact that diversity and inclusion is so openly discussed across the sector now and is a priority for many companies, is a huge and critical change from when Rise was first established.
Can you tell our readers more about ‘Rise’ and its initiatives?
Rise has four core programmes of work and is underpinned and funded by industry. Our sponsors include Avid, BT Sport, Warner.Bros Discovery, ITV, Sky, Clear-Com, and many others.
Our work includes:
- Our award-winning worldwide mentoring programme – This year we have supported 100 women globally across the UK, North America, Europe, and APAC. The programme not only sees the Mentees benefit from 1-2-1 support, but also from additional training on areas such as personal branding, stakeholder management, and Linkedin. It also sees the Mentees offered opportunities to join industry panels, give key-notes, and also attend events that they wouldn’t normally be given access to, such as the DPP Leaders Briefing.
- Rise Up Academy –This is our outreach programme aiming to #inspire #educate, and #inform young people about the pathways and opportunities in the media technology industry. This is achieved through delivering hands-on workshops, where the children (aged 9 through to 18 years old) get to build a 4 camera studio and gallery from scratch. We have worked across the UK and have reached 2000 children this year.
In addition to this, for the first time, we ran our inaugural Summer School in August, where 500 young people got to not only build the gallery and studio, but undertook workshops in virtual production, cloud technology, graphics, post production, experienced an OB truck and much more.
This activity was supported by over 100 industry volunteers from over 40 companies, which just demonstrates the need and desire from the sector to not only ensure there is more diverse talent entering our industry, but also to address the current skills crisis.
It is intended that the Rise Up Academy will become a separate charity in the New Year, which will hopefully allow it to draw down more funding to scale its work further.
- Strive to Rise: this is a new initiative that was launched at IBC this year. It provides a framework for companies to self-assess where they are with gender diversity. Once a company has worked through the detailed criteria, they are awarded a 1, 2 or 3 diamond status. The seven areas companies work through are:
- Emerging Talent
- Learning & Development
- Balance & Transparency
- Visibility & Representation
We had 4 companies go through the pilot: Deluxe, disguise, SDVI, and Timeline and have since had another 20 companies engaged in the process.
- Rise Awards: These are our annual celebrations where we put a spotlight on some of the exceptional women working across our industry. This year we had over 250 submissions, and I am so glad that I am not judging the winners, as they are all phenomenal!
- Events and Retreats: We also have a series of events across the globe at tradeshows, or in partnership with industry to celebrate and champion gender diversity across the sector. Our recent events at NAB NY, An evening with the BBC and Broadcast India show the growth and expansion of Rises’ work globally.
How does one become a part of the ‘Rise’ Group?
We have a members button on our website, and it is free to join. You receive monthly updates on all of our global activities and events that you can attend. Or reach out to one of the international Chairs, who would be happy to have a chat with you. You can find them here: https://risewib.com/about/#advisory-boards
We have heard many good things about the ‘Rise’ mentorship program. Can you tell our readers briefly about this program and the benefits of enrolling in it?
The mentoring programme is a 6-month programme that runs from March – November each year, and we have supported over 100 globally in 2022. I think the success of the programme comes from the camaraderie that the women leave with at the end of the year.
I am pleased to report that the Mentees from the first cohort (or ‘The originals’ as they like to be known) are still very much in touch, and it is wonderful to see their careers flying, with them progressing into senior roles across the industry.
But I think a mentee can probably sum it up better than me:
‘’I know the scheme isn’t over yet as we have a couple of months left but the whole mentorship has been amazing so far!
Like I say, I think I have learnt more about myself than I thought was possible. It has given me the confidence to question so much about my role and where the industry is going, I feel all I do now is talk to people about Rise and get them to sign up to events, and encourage them to take part next year (you don’t operate on commission, do you!?)’’
There is an atmosphere for people to be themselves and talk openly, where sometimes the industry just isn’t forgiving! For me, it has been as much about the events and meeting people as it has the actual mentorship.’’
What are some of the best workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?
I think most companies now have Diversity and Inclusion groups within their businesses or someone who occupies a DEI or DEB role. And this is where it starts to get exciting – because if each individual, each team, and each company starts to undertake work to change the landscape, then change will happen.
But some great initiatives can be seen at Sky with their Get into Tech programme, at the BBC and WarnerBros. Discovery – with many others leading the way with driving more diversity into the industry through graduate programmes, apprenticeships and of course, through supporting the work that Rise undertakes.
What do you think should be done to increase the number of women in tech and leadership roles?
To change the diversity of our industry, we must invest our time, as well as people and importantly financial resources. We can’t expect talent to just arrive on our doorstep. We’ve got to go out and find it – because it is there!
We must then nurture that talent and critically ensure the environments they work in are inclusive enough to retain them. We need a breadth of initiatives from young children right through to C-suite and at every level in-between – and it is going to take an army to do this.
I’d also ask every individual, but critically those in positions of power, to continuously ask ‘is it enough?’ Are we doing enough to change the diversity of our industry? If we keep asking this question, we keep ourselves accountable.
Finally, what is your advice to women in the streaming industry?
Follow your dreams and stay resilient. This can be a tough and hugely male-dominated sector to work in. But it’s also dynamic, vibrant, innovative, and a hugely exciting industry to work in too. And crucially, an industry that is changing and is serious about diversity and inclusion.
OTTVerse: Thank you so much, Carrie, for this insightful interview. We hope that our readers will read this and more and more women join these organizations and benefit from them.