Study reaffirms struggles for women in Hollywood to land meaningful behind-the-camera roles

When Natalie Portman called out the “all-male” slate of best director nominees at Sunday’s Golden Globes award show, the A-list Hollywood crowd in the ballroom let out a muffled gasp.

“People in the room seemed surprised that she spoke the truth,” said Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. “We haven’t gotten to the point where people in positions of power recognize that this is a real problem.”

Women’s struggles to win influential roles in the film industry have been well-documented — and extend far beyond the director’s chair. Lauzen’s latest report, released Wednesday, offers more evidence that Hollywood has failed over the last two decades to correct its gender imbalance.

Women made up just 18 percent of all the directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers who worked on the top 250 U.S. films released last year, according to Lauzen’s study for 2017 titled “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the Scenes Employment of Women.”

The statistic has not budged in the 20 years that Lauzen has been tallying the numbers. For instance, of the top 250 films released in 1998, women comprised just 17 percent of those key behind-the-scenes jobs.

The lack of progress has been “staggering,” Lauzen said. She pointed to her research that found only 1 percent of films last year employed 10 or more women as directors, producers, editors, writers and cinematographers. That compares with 70 percent of films that had 10 or more men in key roles.

“One percent versus 70 percent. That is just outrageous inequality,” Lauzen said. “This negligence has produced a toxic culture that supported the recent sexual harassment scandals and truncates so many women’s careers.”

Since October, the entertainment industry has been roiled by allegations of sexual misconduct by powerful men, including mogul Harvey Weinstein, film producer Brett Ratner, former Amazon Studios chief Roy Price and veteran TV broadcasters Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose.

At Sunday’s Golden Globes, women dressed in black to protest sexual harassment. Women who won awards also spoke of the need to rewrite the script to make Hollywood more inclusive. Last week, 300 prominent women in Hollywood unveiled a high-powered campaign called Time’s Up that is designed to demand change and provide a legal defense fund for women who have suffered sexual harassment or assault at work.

Women believe that achieving equality in the workplace will go a long way in curbing sexual harassment.

Among Lauzen’s findings was that female producers appear to have the greatest opportunities in Hollywood. Producers must possess problem-solving skills and generally work as a team.

Last year, 25 percent of producers were women and 19 percent of the executive producers were women. Lauzen also found that women made up 16 percent of editors, 11 percent of writers and 11 percent of the directors on the top 250 films.

One of the toughest film occupations for women to land remains cinematographers. Just 4 percent of cinematographers on the top 250 films last year were women. And, according to the study, even fewer women found work in music composition — just 3 percent of the top 250 films in 2017 employed a female composer.

Lauzen’s findings come a week after a similar scathing report from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. That study, “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair?,” revealed that women made up just 7.3 percent of directors of the year’s 100 top movies, compared with 4.2 percent in 2016. The USC report also found that African Americans, Asians and Latinos had fewer opportunities to direct major films.


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