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Oscars Still Have Long Way to Go On Gender Equality

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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