I’m just getting started! How writer-director Nikki Cole addresses gender inequality and ageism in Hollywood

Although women represent the majority of consumers in film and television, only 27% reach C-Suite positions in the industry. This glass ceiling has been present for decades. While women were on screen during the 1950s, the chosen actors always had a particular set of traits, one of the most important involving their age. Younger actresses have been the ideal hire for production studios, but even behind the screen, recruiters are not fond of hiring more experienced and knowledgeable women.

Despite the success of a current blockbuster directed by a woman, according to a 2019 report, women working behind the scenes on top-grossing films hasn’t changed in the last two decades. Female directors, writers, producers, and cinematographers only made up 21% of the crew on these big-budget creations. As a mature creator, Nikki Cole continually works to raise awareness.

In her own experiences as a writer, producer, director and showrunner, she has faced sexist remarks and rejections from the beginning of her career. However, since the ‘Me Too movement’, Nikki is optimistic about recent changes for women in the industry. These changes have been beneficial for younger women, while older women are still suffering rejection, now due to ageism. Nikki works with many non-profit organizations and is embracing herself. She hopes that many others can do the same, which would create long-term change for women of all ages.

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Credit: Nikila Cole Backpack Headshot

Nikki Cole has always been drawn to creative and artistic pursuits. Coming from a long line of artists, her parents hoped she would choose the safer path to life instead of facing life’s struggles as an artist. However, Nikki was determined to follow her heart, which was not fond of the various paths her parents were eager for her to follow. It loved dance, film, and eventually would love many other things.

Since Nikki was in a gifted program throughout school, she entered university at just 16 years old. A year later, she decided to leave home because of differences between herself and her parents. This led her to travel and learn, often clinging to many surrogate parental figures who could impart knowledge on her. These people became very important to Nikki and inspired her to pursue her creative dreams despite the judgment she had received.

As a Canadian-American, Nikki lives between Toronto and Los Angeles. After winning several international awards including the Audience Vote for Best Documentary at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Nikki continues to develop her projects in fiction and non-fiction. She also works freelance for several prestigious filming studios and has worked on or led major films and television shows, providing value to organizations with her unique abilities. She works quickly, thoroughly, and deeply, utilizing her years of experience as a creator, mother, and team leader.

“I have the capacity to take on a lot of different subjects, because I’m interested in many subjects, and therefore I can be passionate about complex and varied projects without sacrificing quality. Whether I’m working on my own project or other people’s work, I bring a wealth of knowledge, strength, flexibility, wisdom, and dexterity,” says Nikki Cole.

Despite Nikki’s track record of success, her career hasn’t been easy. When she first entered the industry, she was not allowed to direct. This inspired her to take up many other jobs in production and post-production. Over time, Nikki’s opportunities grew, and while enjoying her successes, she continues to advocate for women of all ages, on the sometimes bumpy road in the entertainment industry.

“When I was getting into the industry, I knew it was youth-oriented and that people hire others who think, look, and feel like themselves, whether they’re trying to be exclusionary or not,” says Nikki, “ It’s a tough situation because I’m happy for younger generations, and I continue to mentor them, but mature women are still fighting to be taken seriously and respected. In the organizations I’m part of, I see the wealth of talent, experience and passion that’s overlooked because of stereotypes that older women aren’t worth the investment.”

Nikki is combating these perceptions by staying up to date and informed in her work. Professionally, she mentors for Women In Film and Television (WIFT) and is a member of multiple non-profits focusing on uplifting women in the film industry. The Director’s Guild of Canada, Alliance of Women Directors, and Women In the Director’s Chair, The CMPA, and Film Fatales, are some of the most important ones Nikki engages with.

She believes that mature women should take up space and authentically share their knowledge from all areas of their rich lives. Nikki is a firm believer that intergenerational workforces can produce more innovative ideas, and continue to raise the bar in the creative fields. Once people include women of all ages in the industry of film and television, they’ll no longer perpetuate inequities caused by miseducation and stereotypes. 

In September, Nikki will be attending the Women and Film International Summit in Helsinki. She is very excited to participate in this event and receive a travel grant from The Canada Council for the Arts. Nikki is focusing on developing screenplays, collaborating on television series, and dancing when she needs to. Nikki is fulfilled with the state of her career, and looks forward to taking on more projects that she can be passionate about.

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