Women have seen only scant progress in behind-the-scenes employment in Hollywood during the past 22 years despite ongoing efforts to improve that outlook, a recap of “The Celluloid Ceiling” showed Tuesday.
Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, made the assertion Tuesday as part of the Living Archive of the findings from every year of the Celluloid Ceiling study since 1998.
“The takeaway from this report is that the celluloid ceiling has proven to be far more resilient than we ever could have imagined,” Lauzen said. “Despite the countless panels, repeated calls for voluntary programs, and promises of change, the percentages of women have remained relatively stable in the majority of the roles considered.”
The percentage of women directors rose from 9% in 1998 to 13% in 2019. Women writers experienced the largest gains, with their percentage rising 6 points from 13% in 1998 to 19% in 2019.
The report showed the percentage of women cinematographers remains virtually unchanged over the 22 years of the study (4% in 1998, 5% in 2019). The percentage of women working as producers climbed from 24% in 1998 to 27% in 2019, with similar increases for executive producers (18% in 1998 to 21% in 2019) and editors (20% in 1998 to 23% in 2019).
Lauzen noted that several big-budget films originally slated for release in the 2020 pre-pandemic world – Cathy Yan’s “Birds of Prey,” Niki Caro’s “Mulan,” Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman 1984,” Chloe Zhao’s “Eternals,” and Cate Shortland’s “Black Widow” – promised to generate momentum for the issue of gender inclusion in the mainstream film industry this year. Some industry observers even predicted that 2020 would mark a turning point in women’s employment.
“But it is unclear whether this handful of films signals real movement in Hollywood’s comfort level with women directors or is a short-lived response to external pressures,” Lauzen said. “The long view provided by The Celluloid Ceiling suggests that evolutionary change is more likely than a revolutionary shift.”