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Oscar Recognition for Women Showing ‘Little Progress,’ Report Finds

With the final voting for the 90th Academy Awards under way, a new study has found the number of female Oscar nominees grew only slightly in non-acting categories this year to 23% from 20%.

The report from the Women’s Media Center was issued Monday night. It asserted that the representation of women had increased minimally despite a concerted push by women and their allies to achieve greater representation for females in all parts of the film industry.

The report noted that “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison had made history as the first female cinematographer to receive a nomination in 90 years of Academy Awards, and that Greta Gerwig, the writer and director of “Lady Bird,” had became only the fifth woman nominated for best director.

“Rachel Morrison shattered the glass ceiling for women nominees in cinematography, and we applaud her historic achievement,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. “We are also proud of the efforts of all women who continue to break barriers in the film industry, despite systemic cultural and institutional bias.”

The report noted that women gained in some categories but lost in others so the overall percentage of women nominees budged only slightly. Women were represented in every category except score, sound editing, and visual effects. Costume design was again the only category where women were equally represented.

In addition to Morrison’s cinematography nomination, Dee Rees became the first black woman nominated for screenwriting in the adapted screenplay category for “Mudbound” and Mary J. Blige, who starred in the film, became the first person to have a best song and an acting nomination in the same year.

“The absence of women in critical behind-the-scenes roles — and the fact that men represent 77 percent of all nominees – means that women in the industry are missing opportunities for recognition and power,” Burton said.

“The larger society is deprived of women’s voices, perspectives, and creativity,” she continued. “At a time when women are demanding more power and visibility, these low numbers should be a wake-up call for Hollywood executives. The message is ‘Time’s up for inequality.’”

The organization noted that many films directed by women were shut out, including “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins, and that for the first time, awards shows have been focused on gender parity, with Golden Globes attendees wearing black to represent victims of harassment and to signal that “Time’s Up.”

The movement toward gender parity, long-simmering, was further ignited by the extensive revelations of sexual harassment in Hollywood, launched in October by the bombshell revelations about Harvey Weinstein. The Weinstein scandal led to a cascade of disclosures about notable industry figures including Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Brett Ratner, James Toback, Matt Lauer, and James Franco.

“These are times that call for sweeping and sustainable changes — as evidenced by the findings in this report,” said Pat Mitchell, WMC co-chair and chair of the Sundance Institute. “The Women’s Media Center will continue to shine a light on the status of women in Hollywood — and on all media platforms. Ultimately, changes must come from those who hold the power, and we know that few, if any, power holders throughout history have given up power without a struggle. But we are in this for the long haul. Change is coming. Time’s up.”

Voting for the Oscars will conclude on Feb. 27. Winners will be announced March 4.

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