The Women’s Media Center has studied Oscars for 10 years, concluding that women represent only 19% of non-acting nominations — and the culprit is the industry’s hiring practices.
According to the D.C.-based group, women received 327 nominations (less than one in five noms) behind the cameras, compared to 1,387 nods for men. The study covers 19 categories, including producers, writers, directors and cinematographers nominated from 2006 to 2015. This year, women represented 22% of nominees, a high mark for the past decade, though still well below women’s percentage of the population.
“There is a clear connection between the low numbers of women hired for behind-the-scenes jobs in film and women’s low representation among Oscar nominees,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. “If they’re not hired in these non-acting categories, they’ll never have a chance to be recognized for their excellence.”
The study added that if more women were hired, the talent pool for nominations would better reflect the overall population and audience, more than half of which are women.
After the Jan. 14 nominations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences vowed to double the number of women and minority voters by 2020. “Women in film — and especially women of color — continue to face discriminatory hurdles,” said Jane Fonda, WMC co-founder and co-chair. “Hollywood is still an all-boys’ club.”
Writer-director Amma Asante, a recipient of the WMC award for directorial excellence, said: “The number of women film directors, especially black female directors, is abysmally low in an industry that too often is insular and resistant to change. The makeup of the Academy is only part of the problem. Most often, it’s the lack of opportunity available to women, and it’s especially hard if you are a woman of color. It’s important to change the narrative for little girls so that they can picture themselves in the director’s chair — a position of strength, power and prestige. Through the director’s lens, I have the ability to shape, create, entertain, educate and inspire. I would only hope that my work as a screenwriter and director gives hope to young women.”
Pat Mitchell, chair of the Sundance Institute and WMC board co-chair, said members of the Academy and Hollywood executives are liable. “The response often given by those held accountable for an irresponsible lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations is that there just aren’t as many women or people of color as directors, producers or in leading roles to choose from. But a review of the representation of women directors, producers and leading roles at Sundance Film Festival, year after year, is evidence enough that there’s no lack of talent or stories or films to celebrate; what there is a lack of is the commitment, the vision to see beyond what Hollywood chooses to celebrate as representative and the best.”
The study also confirmed data as reported in Variety on Jan. 14: No woman has ever been nominated for cinematography in Oscar’s 88-year history, while women are more strongly represented in categories such as costume design, production design, short films and documentary features.
From 2006 to 2015, women constituted 24% of the producing (best picture) nominees. Women also accounted for 13% of the total nominations for writing (original and adapted screenplay). This year, women have four nominations in the writing categories, tying the all-time high from 2007.
The Women’s Media Center was co-founded by Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem.