Women Directors Get as Little Work Now as When 'Titanic' Won the Oscar

The latest report shows slight improvement but not by much.
Actor and director Angelina Jolie. (Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images)
Jan 12, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Following a year in which the lack of opportunities for women directors was covered consistently by mainstream news outlets, it might seem like gender diversity behind the camera is on the upswing. The latest report on women's employment in Hollywood shows there's been a slight improvement since the year prior, but a deeper look at the data suggests there's little to celebrate.

Women composed 9 percent of directors on the 250 highest-grossing domestic films of 2015—up 2 percentage points from 2014—the exact same proportion as in 1998, according to the report, which was released Tuesday by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

Researcher Martha Lauzen also found that the number of women working as writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers on these same films had also increased by 2 percent since last year, up to 19 percent. That number has fluctuated only marginally over the years but was exactly the same in 2001.

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"The numbers for 2015 indicate little change in women's behind-the-scenes employment," Lauzen said in a statement. "The celluloid ceiling remains a reality for women working in this community."

The analysis also showed that films with at least one female director boasted an overall higher percentage of women working as writers, editors, and cinematographers compared with films directed by men. In some cases, the difference was drastic: On films with at least one woman director, for example, slightly more than half the writers were women, compared with just 10 percent on a male-directed film.

"When women are in a gateway role, such as director, they may open the door to opportunities for other women," said Lauzen. The finding is consistent with Lauzen's research last year into the positive correlation between women show runners and the greater numbers of women employed on their television series.

The new data comes as women's employment (or lack thereof) on major motion pictures has caught the attention of the federal government. Spurred by a campaign from the American Civil Liberties Union, which collected stories from women directors who alleged they'd been denied work, last May the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission launched an investigation into gender discrimination in the industry.
"Women have been talking about this for years, women directors and other women in Hollywood, but there's a strong feeling that concrete action is needed," Ariela Migdal of the ACLU told TakePart last year when the agency launched its initiative for women filmmakers. "We've heard from so many women directors, and they're so fed up, and the statistics are so abysmal."