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Lifetime has set a program with AFI to place graduates of the institute’s Directing Workshop for Women in production roles across A+E Networks’ various TV and digital outlets.

The goal is to give graduates immediate access to the opportunities and experience that have the potential to boost their careers for the long time. The AFI program is part of the cable company’s Broad Focus initiative to increase the representation of women at all levels of the television industry.

“To address what seems like an endless cycle of gender inequity in media, I believe we need to think beyond what our industry has already tried to do through mentorships and internships,” said A+E Networks president-CEO Nancy Dubuc. “We need to stop talking and start moving the needle, and one solution is to simply give women jobs.”

Launched last spring, the Broad Focus initiative has led to an increase in the number of women directors behind Lifetime’s made-for-TV movies, with female helmers now behind 42% of the cabler’s movies.

The AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women is open to women with a few years of experience in entertainment or the arts.

“AFI has been a proud force in training female directors for more than four decades,” said AFI president-CEO Bob Gazzale. “Our graduates to date have seen great success and made great strides for women in the community, and we are honored to join with A+E Networks’ Lifetime in furthering the careers of the next generation of great storytellers.”

A+E’s program was inspired in part by the company’s experience with AFI Directing Workshop grad Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, co-creator of Lifetime’s buzzy drama “Unreal.” The short film Shapiro produced through the AFI workshop, “Sequin Raze,” led her to land the series deal with Lifetime.

(Pictured: “Unreal”)