ACLU ‘Encouraged’ by Federal Probe on Dearth of Female Directors

Women Minorties directors in Hollywood
Justin Metz for Variety

The ACLU SoCal says that it is “encouraged” by a federal investigation into the hiring of female directors in entertainment, a year after the organization requested the probe by citing dismal employment figures.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs launched an investigation after receiving their request, in the form of a lengthy letter citing statistical and anecdotal evidence of gender bias. Although the investigation is still ongoing, the ACLU SoCal said that they were “encouraged by the scope of the government’s process and are hopeful that the government will be moving to a more targeted phase.”

“In the year since our report was released, there has been much lip-service paid to furthering opportunities for women, but few definitive steps and no serious movement in the number of women directors hired,” ACLU SoCal’s Melissa Goodman said in a statement. “We are confident that the government will corroborate our work and push industry leaders to address the ongoing violations of the legal and civil rights of these directors and of all women in the film and television industries.”

The EEOC began conducting interviews with female directors last fall.

In one of the figures cited by the ACLU SoCal, women made up just 7% of directors in the 250 top-grossing films of 2014, two percentage points lower than it was in 1998, according to a study from the San Diego State University Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film. According to a recent report from the Directors Guild of America, the number of TV episodes directed by women in 2014-15 was just 16%, albeit a modest gain from a year earlier.

In their letter, the ACLU SoCal expressed concerns not just of studio hiring practices, but also talent agencies and the Directors Guild. The ACLU SoCal letter concluded that the efforts of the Directors Guild of America were ineffective and “some practices may perpetuate discrimination.”

The EEOC has said that “federal law does not permit EEOC to confirm or deny the existence of a charge, and it would be inappropriate to comment on any potential or ongoing enforcement actions.”