The number of behind-the-scenes jobs held by women in the top 250 films has seen virtually no progress in the past two decades, according to a study published Wednesday by San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
Researcher Dr. Martha Lauzen analyzed the number of jobs held behind the camera by women, including positions like director, producer, writer, and cinematographer, from 1998 to 2017 for her report titled the Celluloud Ceiling.
The results remained largely unchanged from years past, despite the widespread reckoning in Hollywood sparked by the October downfall of disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of sexual harassment and assault by scores of women. Since then, Hollywood activists have come together to debate remedies that would force change in an industry rife with gender discrimination.
Among the report’s findings:
Digging deeper into the numbers, Lauzen found that female-helmed films increased employment opportunities for other women. On films with female directors, writers were 68% female, compared with 8% for films directed by men.
Additionally, the four percentage point rise in films directed by women in 2017 compared with 2016 was largely due to the low numbers registered that previous year.
“2016 was actually a very poor year for women’s representation as directors,” Lauzen said in an interview, “So I’m not surprised to see a bit of a rebound in 2017.”
That rise, she said, is likely just part of “the normal ebb and flow,” and it’s too soon to tell whether the current climate will spur more hiring of women.
“If you look at the history of the film industry, the industry only changes only when it is absolutely forced to do so,” Lauzen said. “The real question: are they feeling enough pressure to change the structures of the filmmaking business to welcome more diversity?”
Hiring more women, Lauzen said, is sure to reduce the number of sexual harassment incidents, as well as lead to more inclusive story-telling.
“We have found that year after year, when a film has at least one female director, the percentage of female protagonists goes up… people tend to create what they know. When you have women working behind the scenes that frequently translates into more female characters on screens and you tend to see more powerful female characters.”
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