Oscars Still Have Long Way to Go On Gender Equality

Oscars Diversity and Gender Equality
Alex J. Berliner/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock

Ever since Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 14, there has been a lot of talk about diversity — but most of it has centered on racial disparity. However, there is one group that’s not a minority, but still under-represented in the film world: women, who are half the population, but represent a small fraction of workers in the film industry. The latter fact is reflected in this year’s Oscar nominations, where women were not invisible, but their presence is still insufficient.

Here’s the good news. In costume design, four of the five nominees are women. Women represented exactly 50% of the nominees in makeup/hairstyling (four of eight individuals cited) and editing (three of the six).

From there, things get a little rockier.

Among production designers, it’s four women out of 11 nominees. In adapted screenplay, women represent two of the six nominated individuals; in original screenplay, it’s two of 14.

There are seven women among the 24 producers cited for best pic, a little less than one-third. But that list includes Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey (“Brooklyn”), a rare women-only team of contenders.

In most of the other categories, the numbers and percentage fall sharply. The visual-effects list includes such great work as Sara Bennett (“Ex Machina”), the lone woman out of 20 individuals in that category.

“Since Lina Wertmuller nabbed a directing bid in 1976 for ‘Seven Beauties,’
only three other women have been nominated (Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola
and Kathryn Bigelow, who was the sole winner).”
@timgray_variety on Twitter

Only one of this year’s five foreign-language films was directed by a woman — France’s “Mustang,” helmed by Deniz Gamze Erguven — and one of the documentary features — “What Happened, Miss Simone?” by Liz Garbus.

No woman is nominated for cinematography, directing, music score, sound editing or mixing. It’s a good thing acting categories are separated by gender — otherwise, they might all be filled with men as well.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has been under fire over its lack of inclusion. But, for better and for worse, the Academy is a microcosm of the entire U.S. film industry.

That’s why the absence of female nominees in Oscar’s directing category is not surprising: In 2015, there were only a few major Hollywood films from women directors. That list includes “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “By the Sea” — interestingly, all from Universal — as well as “Suffragette” (from Universal partner company Focus Features) and “The 33” (Warner Bros. and Alcon). The films met varying fates at the box office and collectively nabbed only one Oscar nom, for an original song from “Fifty Shades.”

For the first 48 years of the Academy Awards, no woman was nominated for director, simply because even though studios cranked out hundreds of films, very few were directed by women (Dorothy Arzner, Ida Lupino, etc.). Since Lina Wertmuller nabbed a directing bid in 1976 for “Seven Beauties,” only three other women have been nominated (Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow, the sole winner).

In terms of Oscar, women have always fared better in some categories than others, such as the design categories, documentaries and shorts — and editing.

When the Academy began its category of editing in 1934, one of the year’s three nominees was Anne Bauchens, for “Cleopatra.” Over the decades, there have been 523 individual nominations in editing, including this year’s roster. Margaret Sixel (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) and Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) bring the grand total for 88 years to 70 women, or 13%. The number is not huge, but it’s a stellar group, including Margaret Booth, Anne Coates, Verna Fields, Dede Allen and Thelma Schoonmaker.

The industry has vowed to make the film biz more inclusive overall. But in the meantime, it’s slow going.

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  1. Michael Pondrom says:

    I am a white male and love basketball and football. I agree with more diversity in the oscars if we can ALSO have equality in the nba and nfl. How is this any different. Roughly 15% of the nation is black yet 90% of nfl and nba are black – if that isn’t inequality what the is?

  2. John Jones says:

    What is Spike Lee “really saying” when he states that more people of color need to be in the room where the decisions are being made? Before people get into their panties in a bind, I’m going to state the obvious on Hollywood and those behind the scene decisions. Jewish people comprise 1.7% of the total U.S. population. Remember that number, 1.7%. Now look at their over-representation in acting jobs, directing jobs and the number of film producers. Not to mention Hollywood agencies. Oh, and the Hollywood studio CEO’s. Are there any Black, Asian, or Hispanic’s running “ANY” of those companies? I would have thrown in a Muslim, but that is truly “beyond laughable” times a 1000.


    The TV show Friends: David Schwimmer and Lisa Kudrow are both Jewish. 6 cast members and 2 Jewish? 33% versus 1.7%. The Wonder Woman casting. Gal Gadot was chosen over how many other actresses for the part? And a Jewish Director (Zach Snyder) to boot. He chose his own. Really?! And of course some obvious things like the Jewish last names of characters in TV shows and films, at least one Jewish actor on a TV show, all the commercials (Worlds Toughest Trainer, the dog whisperer, Yitzak Pearlman for Rhea Pearlman) ESPN talent and the Amy (no talent and homely) Shumer over-saturation, promoting each other. And lets not forget how the Jewish guy always “saves the world” and “gets the girl”, Jeff Goldblum (Independence Day) Shia LaBeouf (Transformers). New kid on the block Rebecca Minkoff is the current flavor of the month now being heavily promoted. I could go on and on but I think you get the drift on how obvious it is out there? One would think Jews were 40-50% of the U.S. population, not 1.7%. But what they do comprise are way too much of that very closed town.

    So what Spike Lee is really saying is this… no blacks, Asians or Hispanics in major parts across the board, directing gigs, etc. It means opportunity lost for people of color to break through because there is too much “over-representation” of one seriously small group. And that seriously small group is making the decisions in that room which is leaving people of color (including women, lets not forget them, also seriously screwed) out in the cold.

    For those who think I’m wrong, riddle me this. Over the last 60 years, how many major movies or TV shows have Holocaust themes or reference something in that vein, versus how many of the same for the Cambodian Killing Fields? Probably 300-500 to 1 movie made for the Cambodians. Sad and truly, truly pathetic, but very true.

    So all you people (dreamers) out there who go to Hollywood thinking you have some sort of chance of breaking through in that “crappy little town”, even if you happen to be super-talented, I say “good luck” because your odds are not very good at all if your last name isn’t Greenberg or Steinberg, you regularly attend multiple bar mitzvah’s or have an Israeli flag draped over you at the initial meeting.

    Who I feel badly for are the people who “think” that they somehow got there on talent alone, which the above examples show did not. Basically any Jewish artist got the job because the Jewish people behind the scenes running the system decides who makes it and who doesn’t. And putting their own in those top jobs is priority one.

    I will leave you with two final glaring examples to hammer home the point. The new Spider Man casting and the new Indiana Jones casting. Go look up how many Jewish males were in the final running for the jobs. At least 33% were of the Jewish persuasion. Versus 1.7% of the general U.S. population. Yes, that old 1.7%. Quite odd, huh? Sorry, Jewish males haven’t cornered the market on acting talent, but they have in regards to their collective brothers and sisters calling the power shots behind the scenes. I call it like I see it, and yes, too much concentrated power in one “seriously small 1.7% group” is not a good or healthy thing, that’s the truth.

  3. Nanny Mo says:

    Only an idiot would write such an article. The film industry is based on private business, you can’t force a private industry to have quotas reflecting a population. Only Hitler could do that (and Stalin.) Is the business a business or a social engineering school? I’m really starting to wonder why I read Var-iety, it doesn’t really have all that much vari-ety in it’s reporting.

  4. See me - Feel me says:

    “I’m alright Jack, keep your hands off my stack.”

    When it comes to money and show business and maybe any business when it comes to money, Blacks don’t care so much about Hispanics, women, Asians, handicapped or LGBT. LGBT don’t care so much about women, Hispanics, Asians, handicapped or blacks, Hispanics don’t care so much about women, Asians, handicapped, blacks or LGBT and so it goes, unless the women or men involved in anyone of those categories is also involved in another, like say an African American lesbian, or an hispanic handicapped gay man, multiple opportunities for venting there, big posters too. But what about agism? Angry old white writers are the worst when it comes to protesting injustice. They slam their typewriters and type racial slurs or create low paid women characters. And what about American Indians? Can’t forget about them. Or Sikhs, or Hindus, no Arabs mentioned here at all. Someone said recently, let’s shut it down until we figure out what’s going here. Let’s get the guy who said that. Everyone loves him.

    So summing up, the studios care about profits and whichever demographic regardless of which category they fall into, drags the most people off their couches and into the theaters is the one who wins. Roll credits, fade to black or LGBT, or women, or brown, or angry white writers…….it’s everyone for themselves.

    If it was about art, it shouldn’t matter, art get’s made but all art doesn’t make money. So strive to make art with whomever wants to make it with you and hope that will be enough. Given all the wonderful casting choices, it shouldn’t be too hard to do.

    “Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie.”

  5. It’s clear that Black Women and Hispanic Women and Asian Women don’t count in this whole “WOMEN” conversation. I’s always funny to hear White women bitch about “Women” when White Women get over 95% of the jobs that Women in Hollywood get, but you don’t hear them speaking out about gender unless some white woman like Jennifer Lawrence or Meryl Streep feels left out of something.

    And out of the 4,000 plus Oscars that have been nominated and handed out since the first show in 1929, Black Women have gotten 3, Black Men have gotten 6, Latinos and Aisan have gotten a handful… while White Women have gotten literally THOUSANDS. And thats on par with who gets opportunities to work.

    Hollywood is a town where White Men and White Women get over 95% of the jobs and collude to ensure only a select few non-whites get opportunities.

    White Women are just as vocal about Blacks and Minorities of Color needing to wait their turn as all the White guys are. But whenever it suits them we hear a buncha bullcrap about “glass ceilings” and boy’s clubs”.

    When Vanity Fair did it’s cover of actresses in Hollywood and featured all White Women, “Women” didn’t say a word. Women of Color had to speak out. Kathyrn Bigelow didn’t say a syllable when Selma got nominated and the BLACK WOMAN who cowrote and directed it got snubbed.

    But nownow it’s about “Women”.

    Whatever, White Women… go cry me a river and you’ll get a Oscar nom—cuz as we’ve seen the last couple years no women of color will get one.

  6. Mike says:

    Your headline blames the Oscars, but the article is about insufficient representation of women in the industry. It’s the same thing that people are writing all over the place whether they’re talking about women or blacks or LGBT or other minorities. They’re blaming the Academy when they should be focusing on the industry. It’s too easy to blame the Academy. Get to the roots and shake up the industry (the producers, publicists, casting directors). Stop blaming the son for the sins of the father.

  7. Lisa says:

    We’re not in elementary school anymore. This is not a case of girls not allowed in the boy’s treehouse. This is real life – in the grown up world.
    I read these articles by Variety and I feel angered, then despondent. I don’t know what to do, but I know I have to do or say or write something, and hopefully others will do the same, otherwise nothing will change.
    We need to look at this a different way. We also need to pull from within ourselves because it seems we’re not getting support from the other 50% of the population. Why would we? We will be criticized and sabotaged and belittled. We need to accept that and know when it’s happening. But most importantly, we can’t be pitted against one another as we so often are. We have to go on the assumption that nobody is going to rescue us or help us at this. If a few good men do, that’s great. But I won’t count on it. We’re on our own here.

  8. E says:

    Im sorry but since when are Women not minorities? And the race issue has only brought up African Americans, NOT Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians and anyone else who doesnt show up as a leading or supporting role worthy of a nomination.

    • Lisa says:

      Actually, the Native Americans and others were up in arms when Johnny Depp played a Native American. So, your statement is not accurate.

  9. Taylor says:

    You gotta be kidding me? 50 Shades of Gray and By the Sea? Those were horrible movies. Angelina Jolie has only been able to become a ‘director( not a very good one anyways) because of her star power.

    • Lisa says:

      And this the typical reaction that men have towards any woman who even approaches the limelight.

      • Elder says:

        Girls, it’s with comments like these that you force others to stop taking you seriously.

        Take a step back and see how ridiculous you both sound.
        Feminism will never be taken seriously so long as it’s represented by crybabies whose only hope to emerge victorious is to slam the other gender as if they were talking about one single dude that they know intimately. A truly intelligent feminist is now reading both your comments and he/she is going, face in their palms, “Oooh no…. we’re screwed now”.
        My advice to you is to Get a grip on reality and learn how things really work out in the world first, then try to speak about it without embarrassing yourselves and the whole movement, if you want to make a change. Until then, watchwhat you type, because ignorance always backfires.

        By the way, the guy above was totally right about both the films he mentioned. Especially 50 Shades, for which its director should be really ashamed. At least next time try to pick on someone who’s talking nonsense.

        Signed: a white guy with an hispanic, feminist girlfriend. And proud to have her.

      • Julie says:

        Exactly. If a male movie star became a director they would call him a Renaissance man.

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