Women Had 'Radical Underrepresentation' In The Biggest 2018 Films, New Study Reveals

In December, we reported that movies featuring female leads have led to widespread financial success, yet it looks like there’s still plenty of work to do for Hollywood execs these days. According to Variety, a new report has noted that women still are underrepresented behind the camera and within the film-making industry as a whole. A new report from Dr. Martha Lauzen entitled Celluloid Ceiling, has the complete details, including a rundown of female employment. The report, originally from San Diego State University, has heavily criticized that Hollywood is in strong need of a radical shift. Lauzen has specifically called attention to studios and talent agencies, who need to be on board in order to act as a catalyst towards change.

In the study, over three thousand individuals were employed for the top 250 grossing films of 2018 in the United States. Out of 3,076 employees, women were only represented in 20% of the directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. Sadly, this accounted for a mere 2 percent increase from the year before, which had 18% of those roles delegated to women. In 2018, a whopping 1% of films actually represented women in those same positions, whereas more than half employed at least 10 men, at 74%. And, out of all the top grossing films nationwide last year, women were only within 8% of those directors.


“Without a large-scale effort mounted by the major players – the studios, talent agencies, guilds, and associations – we are unlikely to see meaningful change. The distance from 8% to some semblance of parity is simply too vast. What is needed is a will to change, ownership of the issue – meaning the effort originates with the major players, transparency, and the setting of concrete goals. Will, ownership, transparency, and goals are the keys to moving forward,” Dr. Lauzen noted.

Surprisingly enough, in 1998, 9% of directors were women, while in 2017, at least 11% of women took the helm for movies as directors. In a positive shift, women made greater strides as producers, with 26%, and as executive producers, at 21%. Female composers increased to 3%, while sound editors upped the ante by 2% and sound designers by one percent from 2017. While these statistics might seem bleak, this survey will hopefully serve as a wakeup call for many Hollywood studios, and a step in the right direction towards greater representation for women.

According to Women in Hollywood, this year will include several female-helmed films, including Fox’s Breakthrough, directed by Roxann Dawson (April 12th, 2019) and The Rhythm Section, by director Reed Morano (February 22nd, 2019). Sony has at least four female-led titles headed to the box office this year, including Miss Bala by Catherine Hardwicke (February 1st, 2019), A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood from Marielle Heller (October 18th, 2019), and the widely anticipated Charlie’s Angels reboot from director Elizabeth Banks (November 1st, 2019) and Little Women by Greta Gerwig (December 25th, 2019). Many comic fans have been abuzz with excitement for Disney’s release of Captain Marvel on March 8th, 2019—directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. The Mouse House will also release Frozen 2 on November 22nd, directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck.

“The study provides no evidence that the mainstream film industry has experienced the profound positive shift predicted by so many industry observers over the last year. This radical underrepresentation is unlikely to be remedied by the voluntary efforts of a few individuals or a single studio,” said Dr. Martha Lauzen, who penned the study. Lauzen is also the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at SDSU.

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