Women Comprise 7% of Directors on Top 250 Films (Study)

Women in Hollywood 2015
Nick Iluzada for Variety

Jennifer Lawrence is speaking out about the pay gap for actresses. Federal authorities are investigating possible gender discrimination throughout Hollywood. And stars like Ashley Judd are going public about the sexual harassment they faced while breaking into the movie business.

Despite all the debate around the lack of opportunities for women, the film industry continues to be dominated by men, new research shows. In 2014, 85% of films had no female directors, 80% had no female writers, 33% had no female producers, 78% had no female editors and 92% had no female cinematographers, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

The study’s author, Dr. Martha Lauzen, has been examining the representation of women both in front of and behind the camera for two decades. She says that she’s noticed that the topic is receiving greater media attention than when she started crunching the numbers, but also notes that the status quo has remained stubbornly resistant to change.

“The cultural zeitgeist at the moment is very concerned with providing more people with more opportunities, but the numbers have yet to move,” said Lauzen. “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.”

It’s certainly an issue that’s getting a lot of attention. Lawrence’s essay documenting her outrage about being paid less than her male co-stars on “American Hustle” got endorsements from the likes of Jessica Chastain and Bradley Cooper, and led to extensive coverage.

The problem of discrimination has also attracted interest from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The federal agency has been setting up interviews with industry figures to try to find out why women directors are not better represented in the business.

Although Lauzen believes those moves could change things in time, she’s disappointed that women don’t appear to be getting the same opportunities on film sets as their male counterparts. The center usually delves into the subject of below-the-line employment for women on an annual basis, but this year its broadened its research. Instead of focusing on just the 250 top grossing films, researchers looked at the 700 highest-grossing productions, which comprise nearly every film that scored a theatrical release. It found that there were more women employed on lower budgeted, lower grossing productions.

Women comprised 13% of directors on the top 700 films, but just 7% on the top 250 films. They made up 13% of writers on the top 700 films, and 11% on the top 250 films. And 27% of producers on the top 700 films were female, while 23% on the top 250 films were female. And women accounted for 9% of cinematographers on the top 700 films, but 5% of cinematographers on the top 250 pictures. The number of female editors stayed consistent at 18% in both test samples.

“There may be some bias at work,” said Lauzen. “On independently produced films there is the perception of there being lower risk. 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.”

The lack of women making hiring decisions leads to a less diverse workforce. Evidence suggests that women in positions of power are more likely to employ other women. On films with female directors, women comprised 52% of writers, 35% of editors and 26% of cinematographers. When men directed, the number of female writers shrank to 8%, editors fell to 15% and cinematographers dropped to 5%. The same is true for directing opportunities. Women comprised 20% of directors on projects where at least a third of the producers were female, but just 7% of directors when the representation of female producers fell below that percentage.

The center’s study is only focused on 2014. That means that some more recent, high-profile examples of behind-the-camera success have not been taken into account. In the past few months, Elizabeth Banks scored one of the summer’s biggest box office hits directing and producing “Pitch Perfect 2,” director Sam Taylor Johnson guided “Fifty Shades of Grey” to a global gross of nearly $570 million, and director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan have turned “Suffragette” into a bonafide Oscar contender. But Lauzen cautions that these women’s accomplishments aren’t necessarily indicative of a wider change.

“Large industries don’t tend to turn on a dime,” she said. “We can’t rely on a few anecdotal cases to let us know how the situation is for all women.”

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  1. briarstraits says:

    What articles like this, and most likely the authors and those who complain about these “gaps” never ask, is “well, how many women are actually trying to be directors (or whatever career)? If, of all the aspiring directors in Hollywood, 14 percent are women, and 7 percent actually become directors, that’s an amazing accomplishment. Why can’t anyone ask (or answer) these statistical questions that would reinforce (or not) their position? Perhaps because their position is ridiculous and they’re just coming up with things to complain about?

  2. Dear Feds, a recent Berkeley College study concluded that Hollywood movies are overwhelmingly white, male and straight. I conducted a similar study of the Nigerian movie industry and concluded that their movies are overwhelmingly black, male and straight. Who knew? Now please send my $500K research grant because I’m unemployed, lost my health insurance and I’m low on ammo. Regards, Joe the plumber.

  3. Dan says:

    that’s it we need to force women to become directors and shoot half of the male directors because they are to blame. Then all of the world should be forced to pay to see movies directed bay women. This is going to work out just as well as the WNBA

  4. Jackalot says:

    Ashley – name names or it is just noise

  5. tj1000 says:

    So what? Is this really news? Does anyone really care?

  6. Nanny Mo says:

    I noticed that the WORST episode of the The Walking Dead so far this season was directed by a woman. The episode was awfully directed, but we all felt better about ourselves and that is what is really important today in America.

  7. Pouncekitty says:

    How many are Transgender? How many are Hispanic? How many are Black? Isn’t this numbers game getting tired? Grow up, girls. Life is unfair. Even the talented have trouble sometimes. Jeez! I am officially sick of Gender Whining.

  8. Troubadour says:

    lol these jobs are a lot of work and a lot of risk. Most women have zero interest in working on commission or doing temp jobs or anything like that, which is pretty much what this stuff is. High risk, high reward, but most people bust and get pretty much nothing for their efforts.

    Same reason why women generally choose to work government jobs, which pay more than the private sector (78% more than private sector counterparts) but initially are considered low paying and the biggest winners in private sector make more money. Women are smart enough to understand it’s better to take the higher guaranteed pay than the speculative highest pay. Although they’ll whine they deserve the highest pay afterwards, and in the case of government that’s why the government salaries get so ridiculously high.

    Also women tend to hire men, because women are less influenced by attractive women who are just trying to use their sexuality to get hired. Most of my jobs I’ve been hired by a woman, despite lacking qualifications, probably because I am/was an attractive man. Attractive women get hired by men. Women hate other women that are more attractive than them.

    There was a studio where an accomplished woman wanted to make an all-woman workforce. It’s sexist but legal for women to do. Her studio failed, because the women were too lazy to work and destroyed the company with all their drama and office politics. Google it, she later decided she would only have all-men workforces and still couldn’t admit to herself that feminism didn’t work out for her. She lost a lot of money with her experiment.

  9. giatny says:

    So what? Maybe men are just better at the job, willing to work longer hours & don’t
    require as much time off for childcare. Merit trumps gender! Not all jobs fit the politically
    engineered guidelines. As a woman who worked in fields dominated by men, I find the constant whining from the left offensive. Equal pay does not always mean same pay.
    The Fair Pay Act will cost women jobs. Why hire a woman when a man costs the same
    and won’t sue?

    • Reel Injun says:

      So true- since everyone knows men are negligent and incompetent parents with little interest in our own children, we don’t need as much time off to focus on family.

      I say we should probably create some kind of societal structure where men do all the paid labor, but are forbidden from parenting- we’re just not good at it, and merit trumps gender! The male role should really be to work and make lots of money, because that’s what we’re best at! We don’t know anything about ensuring the survival of young people, or about teaching them how to grow up to be responsible, purposeful, thoughtful adults. All this liberal nonsense about the importance of having a “dad” is some politically engineered guideline.

      We should just donate sperm and get to work and let women worry about raising the next generation. We can just be men, working together, all the time. Just a bunch of men, doing hot, sweaty labor together.

  10. MichMike says:

    Gee, these are the folks that contribute and support those that claim there is a war on women……………but it is they who are the sexists. They also support restricting citizens from protecting themselves with firearms, but have armed guards for themselves (and families) and take in billions from movies with massive violence and specifically gun violence. They also support AGW all the while being in the 1% whose personal behavior results in them having a CO2 footprint 50 TIMES the average resulting in about 1% of the U. S. population being responsible for more than 33% of ALL (that’s right, ALL) U. S. CO2 emissions. Indeed, they support the president who has unilaterally implemented plans that allow them to continue to spew CO2 unabated while financially hammering the lower income and middle classes. And of course they stand by idly (not really, they donate money) while 1,000+ people are victims, each week, of crimes committed by people here illegally. Hey Hollywood, give us all a big “I care”, would you please?

  11. Simple Facts says:

    typical progressive crap. Equality of outcome, ignoring equality of opportunity. The solution is obvious to any good llberal: Simply force people into occupations that they don’t care for or are not particularly interested in – penalize those who won’t discriminate against the prevailing members of that occupation by favoring your designated victim class – and ridicule those members of that victim class that don’t immediately jump at the gifted opportunity. Then, feel good about yourself no matter how many other’s lives you have ruined or disrupted to satisfy your particular fantasy goal of “equality.”

  12. Bob Wahler says:

    Movie producers bet LARGE sums of money on a PICTURE with exactly ONE THING in mind. Will it turn a profit. Period.

    If you think they are really making these decisions based on the gender of the “crew”, you are an idiot. MAYBE it is a NATURAL result that 7% of directors are women.

    I wonder if 12% of directors are black? Or Italian? Or if Hispanics make up the same percentage as they do of the public?

    Want to be treated like an individual? STOP INSISTING YOU BE TREATED BASED ON YOUR GENDER!

  13. James says:

    There were less women in my film school than men.

  14. Robert says:

    Directors should be chosen based on their qualifications, skills and experience without regard to their race, gender, or any other physical characteristic. Hiring more women or minorities just to project the image of “fairness” or “diversity” will not necessarily improve the quality of movies – which is the bottom line.

  15. radbola says:

    1) women make movies that are only interesting to single women. The successful ones make movies everyone likes. Consider heckerling..
    2) let those over spoiled libtards and gays destory their own town and industry? A bunch of social enemies and their welfare sucking sex toys are NOT a national priority. Take Berkeley with you.

  16. hitrestart1 says:

    Only Commiewood feminazis give a shyte about this. In the real world this is called non-news.

  17. Jeff says:

    This wouldn’t be interesting were it not for the fact that Hollywood beats it chest about the evils of sexism, drugs, racism, ad nauseam and they are among the worst offenders. It wouldn’t be possible to display a greater degree of hypocrisy.
    The whole industry is a petri dish for fostering the very behavior they decry. A no-talent, non-celebrity (whose name I will not repeat) makes a porn video and through simple promotion and marketing has become one of the highest paid and most publicized “celebrities” in the business. Being subject to the 24/7 spew of the entertainment shows one would think she actually contributed something….anything to society with the constant stream of promotion she and her family get.
    Feminism has FAILED because it couldn’t remain impartial and recognize that women have significantly contributed to the issue of sexism. Look at the demographics of the fan base of the above-mentioned faux-celeb. You can talk all you want about equal pay and promote opportunity, but it will fall on deaf ears because one of your own, without words, is screaming that all you have to do is sell your body.
    I wouldn’t go as far to say that sexism is Hollywood is self-induced, but for these women to delare victimhood is a cop-out and an indictment of those women currently in power. So continue to take the paycheck for your silence or get up and do something.

  18. Is it because sexism? Or are women in general are just not as good at the job?

  19. As long as they keep making paranormal 22, saw 25, etc does it really matter who makes the crap hollywood puts out there?

  20. Aaron says:

    Dr. Lauzen makes an important first step to the study of gender equality. However, the author’s conclusions are not supported by Dr. Lauzen’s research. The research does NOT show that discrimination exists. To do that, Dr. Lauzen would need to insert more controls into the study. These numbers are sensational but similar numbers in the field of nursing could also be published. Men make up only 10% of nurses nationwide! It’s a false conclusion to use these percentages as evidence of discrimination. They are only gender distributions in a respective industry.

  21. Peggy Allen says:

    Just reading some of these anti-woman comments gives you all the evidence that you need for why women and minorities are being continuously shut out of the top jobs.

    • JSpicoli says:

      Do you want a meritocracy or some sort of subsidized BS affirmative action?

      So What is what i say to this stat. Do something to change it on merit.

      • awfulorv says:

        Since the advent of movie making, there have been so few women Directors, that they can be counted on the finger of two hands.
        I admit that is a tremendously skewed figure, but why is that?
        And do you think that if women had been shown to be extremely proficient at directing movies, there would not have been hundreds of successful, and famous, female directors?
        This is either the result of tremendous discrimination by the studios, or a total disregard for, potentially, huge profits, which would have, naturally, flowed from the creative excellence of those missing female Directors.
        Profits which Hollywood, does not, usually, pass on.
        Would someone, rationally, explain how this could be?

  22. James Cygnus says:

    And here you will see the hypocrisy of liberalism on full display. “Equal pay” “fair representation” etc. only matter when the targets of said crusades are entities that liberals find offensive or “neutral” ground where they feel they can take control.

    Example: Liberals will pull hair and gnash teeth about female/minority %’s in executive positions at say, oil companies, because they are evil. But if it’s someplace they love, like Apple, then ti doesn’t matter.

    Same with Hollywood. As long as Hollywood churns out entertainment” that is most often thinly veiled propaganda, liberals don’t give a rats behind who’s doing it.

  23. How many women are encouraged to go to Film School over other arts, or even the “soft sciences”? Where is the recruitment drive to get them into the business beyond just being PAs and other relatively menial jobs? This reminds me of the cartoon with the two recruitment booths, one labeled “STEM” and the other labeled “Women’s Studies”. The women flock to the “Women’s Studies” booth, then complain that there’s no women in STEM.

  24. Cajun Exile says:

    Hollywoods war on women is clear for all to see.

  25. Moe Curly Howard says:

    I wonder what percentage is non-Jewish. Just wondering.

  26. Rick James Beech says:

    You mean to tell me the REAL war on women is found in examples like liberal-run Hollywood? Funny, I thought it was the GOP that had the war on women.

  27. Shameless says:

    I don’t care who directs it. Hollywood should just try making something that doesn’t suck.

  28. Maybe the universities should graduate more film majors rather than rather than have their female gender studies grads complain about it.

    • Notice that feminists are highly selective in their demands for equal representation. What about more women in construction trades, trash collection, sewer maintenance? They are even more severely underrepresented in those.

  29. Defiant says:

    LOL! Who cares? What does the ratio of female directors even matter!? The real question, though, is what the Liberals think this statistic MEANS. What? Women are being refused director jobs? It’s like when Liberal groups cry about the lack of black police officers! There aren’t enough blacks applying…how can you graduate them to the force!? Perhaps there aren’t as many female directors! Maybe more women should go to film school.

    This stuff is just silliness.

  30. Peter says:

    Quick! File a complaint with the appropriate agency. Turn-out the paid protesters. Summon the hapless lawyers. Agitate at the Emmy and Oscar events. Oh, and be back at the Malibu beach house in time for cocktails!

  31. Scott says:

    What is the ratio of men/women directors, writers, cinemaphotographers available. You can’t just use percentage working as your scale. You have to determine the percentage of the pool working.
    For instance if there are 100 male directors for every 25 women directors then that percentage of women directors working almost equals that of men.

  32. Not U2 says:

    “Top FIlmakers” Yet there is almost an overabundance of women making student films, etc. Frankly, I can tell when a woman is directing TV or writing. Rarely are they transparent to the story. So, perhaps that just doesn’t have that much appeal to a brad audience. Here’s an idea. Let’s FORCE the number of women directing so we have parity! After all, that’s much more important than actual entertainment.

  33. cleo48 says:

    So what? What is suggested here? That we must drive half the current directors out of the business and allocate their positions to females by some kind of Marxist executive writ? If more women directors are needed then get out there and do something noteworthy. Who is stopping them?

  34. liberals Suck It says:

    Who gives a s hit I am done with the games of liberals and women

  35. Dutch says:

    We need an aggressive affirmative action (oops, should have called it “diversity” or “inclusion”) plan for Hollywood. The government should mandate the number of female directors, female leading actors, pay, heck . . . everything! At Academy Award time, the government could also overrule the voting process and mandate that the Awards be given to the various genders, races, etc. equally–regardless of merit. This would really level the playing field and help the industry produce movies that almost 2% of the population would pay to see. And when the studios begin going broke, the government could step in and offer subsidies.

    Who cares about entertainment? Hollywood, like everyone else, has a responsibility to satisfy the EOMO (“easily offended minority opinion”).

  36. odinsacolyte says:

    That tells me they should make better choices about their films.

  37. Leon says:

    WHO CARES!!! I don’t give a crap how many women are in film. Darn generation wuss outraged over nothing again.

  38. strick9 says:

    There are no women playing in the National Football League. This obvious discrimination needs to be stopped!

  39. MarkBBBB says:

    I do not watch TV and Hollywood. If you want to see how Hollywood treats women – go check out where Hollywood’s B-team is. They are a few blocks away in San Fernando Valley – the capital of porn. All the gals who don’t make it in Hollywood end up there. F Hollywood.

  40. Gene Pinkham says:

    Doesn’t a movie have to have Box Office results BEFORE it is considered a “top” movie? I also blame Barbara Streisand. She caused this by miscasting herself in her own movies like “Mentyl”.

  41. Sparky2 says:

    The only way they are ever going to get so that women equal out to jobs in numbers and pay with men, is when science figures out a way for men to have babies! Unfortunately, since feminism and media have decided that for a woman to be successful she has to ‘be like a man’, that time on job to get promotions won’t equal out until men get pregnant! So all you feminist out there should be placing you attacks on the science community for not accomplishing this.

  42. wade says:

    if women made better movies than there would be more “top” movies made by women . Its not sexisam, the market takes care of itself. no one care what sex the director , producer , or the highest paid performer is. good movies make money bad movies dont.

  43. CelluloidFan35mm says:

    Is it just me or is this whole conversation is getting really obnoxious now?
    As a moviegoer and movie lover, what Hollywood needs to do is quit pushing politics upon the public and trying to be politically correct and appeasing to minority audiences, filling quotas just to avoid pissing people off and concentrate on making good movies because clearly they are not getting the job done and that goes for male AND female writers and directors. You wonder why 98% of Hollywood movies and studio-indies suck now.
    I don’t care about gender, color, or orientation of the stars or directors etc. Just quit making garbage movies because it looks like more of them are about to flood the screens.

  44. Aaron says:

    These are interesting numbers. It would be great to read the study to see how the numbers were derived. There may be a causal link between the gender of the director and the gender of crew. To really answer the question of discrimination, the investigator needs to know both the gender differences for each position, and, more importantly, the percent of women denied the job. These numbers could be interprete as an example of self selection bias, where women are less likely to pursue directing and their representation is actually consistent with or in excess of the number who pursue it. A similar case is men in nursing. It would be misleading to say in a given year, men made up only 15% of emergency room nurses, and in larger higher paying hospitals, men made up only 7%. The author needs to know how many were denied to understand if that denial is a sign of discrimination or not.

  45. dannyrose says:

    And… who cares? Is “inequality” necessary, or is it just another whimper of the politically correct?

  46. Jill says:

    For a town that is supposed to be so liberal in its politics it sure doesn’t seem that way when it comes to their money. Then they are suddenly conservatives. Plus this town still rarely shows mixed race couples in its stories. When was the last time we saw a plethora of black male leads marrying white female leads in Hollywood movies, or Asians given anything to do but supporting roles as martial arts characters or assassins? America makes junky everything today, from movies to appliances.

  47. GreenHeretic says:

    The most liberal institution is also the most sexist. Whodathunk?

  48. Julienne says:

    Hollywood Exec’s will be as hypocritical as it wants to, when it comes to supporting the Liberal bullet point of “The War Against Women,” by donating to Liberal Politicians. Just don’t point-out that Liberal’s are the WORST at leveling the playing field. Women are used as sexual lures to make people watch films and then they’re told they can’t direct those films.

    Another example, Hillary Clinton helped bury the Lawsuits of 13 women that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted.

    Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Paula Jones, Eileen Wellstone, Carolyn Moffet, Elizabeth Ward, Paula Corbin, Sandra Allen James, Christy Zercher & Several college students that would not allow their names to be used.

  49. Lisa says:

    I have been in this business for ten years, I’ve seen everything there is to see. I wasn’t going to comment on here because I knew there would be depressing posts blatantly belittling women. But I feel I have to comment because I cannot ignore issue. And voila, just read the disparaging comments for yourself. But discrimination against women is a very common entity amongst male filmmakers, especially ones born before 1980, They don’t know why they are better than women, they just ARE. A good example is when Variety did the article on the bizarreness of The Fifty Shades of Grey author handing the reins over to her husband. Men commented, ‘If he’s more qualified, then good’. How can anyone but the author ‘be more qualified’? She was wrote the damn books, she was a producer for the BBC, she knows the business. But once money is to be made, serious money, women are discredited and pushed out. I think most of it is that as women, we don’t see it coming. We live in a numbed Barbie world where there’s a box full of Barbies all vying with cute dresses and matching shoes for one Ken. I have on several occasions seen the manipulation happening on my own projects right before my eyes. I stood up and said ‘I won’t let this happen’. I had to fire some guys. And for that I’ve been called ‘crazy’. But I’d rather be called ‘crazy’ than stupid.
    Chances are we can’t change the older generation of the good ole’ boys club. However, men who have grown up in a single mother households, which now consists of at least 40% of the population, realise how difficult it’s been for their mothers. They’ve seen the discrimination, the games, the manipulation and it has hurt their psyche. The little boy wonders why daddy is doing so well with his new girlfriend whilst mommy can barely put food on the table. This generation of boys can finally empathise with women. I don’t think this generation of men will tolerate such exclusion of women. I doubt we’ll have anything close to equality for another 50 years until the good ole boys have died out, but we have to keep striving.
    I doubt my post will go without insults, name calling, or just plain dismissiveness but the insults will be ignored. I refuse to let it bother me, I have bigger fish to fry like making really good, thoughtful films, that make a lot of money.

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