Women’s Filmmakers Initiative Provides Clear Picture of Hollywood Gender Disparity

Cathy Schulman and Jennifer Lee Crystal
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Preparing to speak at the Women in Film’s annual fundraiser and awards gala 2½ years ago, WIF president Cathy Schulman realized she was tired of having to beat the same drum yet again.

“If I stood up one more time and quoted flat-lined statistics about growth for women … not only was I going to be grossly disappointed in myself and the organization, but I also was going to be depressed and embarrassed,” Schulman, above with ‘Frozen” co-helmer Jennifer Lee, says. “The question became, how are we really going to start effectuate change and how can Women in Film be the leader?”

The result was the Women’s Filmmakers Initiative, which in collaboration with the Sundance Institute has developed annual research reports (2012 and 2013) to provide a clear picture of the gender disparity in film and television content creators. A key take-away from the study was that women face a barrier to funding from both studios and financiers in general, making it hard to get anything made.

Women in Film approaches the parity problem with both advocacy and education. Along with financing programs, Women in Film’s outreach program works with studios, networks, agents and other gatekeepers to implore them to take concrete steps to further gender equality. The organization provides grants and scholarships to female students and has developed a mentorship program that provides hundreds of women with experienced advisors to help them get their careers off the ground.

Though the statistics may be skewed now, Schulman knows the organization’s work can produce results in the future, and she will continue to work collaboratively to achieve the gender parity that seems so obvious to her.

“If we don’t have women at the table, the product that gets made is going to be more male-oriented, and half of the planet is women,” Schulman says. “Let’s just be basic: It’s 50-50 on the planet, let’s make it a 50-50 opportunity.”

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