New Study Shows Female Directors in Hollywood Promote Equality Even Behind the Scenes
Sexism and the gender gap in Hollywood has never been a hotter topic of conversation. Most recently, Jennifer Lawrence and her various co-stars added their voices to the dialogue, but A-list celebs from Meryl Streep to Carey Mulligan have all sounded off.
It’s no secret that there are too few women in Hollywood behind the scenes. Writers’ tables are seriously lacking in female talent, and the casts are no better. Female representation in media is also subpar, and it looks like all that changes when a female director is at the helm.
A new study authored by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, has made some interesting conclusions about how gender disparity is lessened when a movie is directed by a woman.
For example, in the top 700 films of 2014, only one-fifth of the behind-the-scenes workers were female, and only 15% of those films were directed or co-directed by women. Women made up only 7% of overall directors. Seven percent.
But within that small amount of films, the amount of female cinematographers, editors, and writers increased up to six times over. That’s a huge difference.
Obviously, female directors may be more likely to hire women, but why? Why aren’t men making more efforts to include female talent? Why must a woman be at the helm of a movie before it even comes close to equal representation? And we know that equal representation leads to more complex female characters, less sexist representation of female characters, and more diverse stories likely to draw in a bigger audience.
Lauzen spoke about the results of her study, commenting that despite the efforts of stars like Streep and Patricia Arquette, progress remains stagnant:
“The cultural zeitgeist at the moment is very concerned with providing more people with more opportunities, but the numbers have yet to move. We’re getting a lot of public dialogue about the issue as actors like Patricia Arquette and Meryl Streep speak up, but we haven’t seen that groundswell result in higher numbers.”
The issue of gender discrimination in Hollywood is currently being investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an agency that is setting up interviews with industry execs to figure out why opportunities are thin for women.
So why aren’t women being hired as much as male directors? Lauzen asserts it has to do with gender bias, and the fact that women are considered a risk, for some reason:
“I think there is a notion that women are not being hired as directors on big films because they are somehow riskier hires. The problem is that’s not how Hollywood works. There’s a growing list of male directors who are relative newbies and are placed at the helm of $100 million-plus films with little feature experience.”
Thankfully, this study comprises only 2014 (although Variety is quick to point out that 1998 saw more female directors than 2014). In 2015, a wider dialogue took place and greater strides were taken. Most notably, Elizabeth Banks directed Pitch Perfect 2 to astonishingly positive box-office results. Fifty Shades of Grey and Suffragette are two other notable examples from 2015.
Of course, change doesn’t happen in a year. But studies like these, small strides, greater dialogue, and the honesty of women in the industry can make it possible for women in entertainment to achieve even greater heights.