Top Ranks of Film Industry Lack Diversity, Study Finds

Top Ranks of Film Industry Lack Diversity, Study Finds

Gender, race, and age diversity among the ranks of directors in the U.S. film industry is virtually nonexistent and there remains a stark gender imbalance in the executive ranks of major film industry companies, a report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism finds.

Written by associate professor Stacy L. Smith, founder and director of the initiative, the report, Inclusion in the Director's Chair? (32 pages, PDF), examined the gender, race, and age of directors of the hundred top-grossing films each year between 2007 and 2017 and found that only 4.3 percent of more than twelve hundred directors of the eleven hundred films were women — with the percentage of women directors in each year ranging from 1.9 percent in 2013 and 2014 to 8 percent in 2008. Of the forty-three female directors, four were African-American, two were Asian, and one was Latina.

Funded by the Annenberg Foundation and the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, the report found that of the directors included in the study, only sixty-four, or 5.2 percent, were African-American, while just thirty-nine, or 3.2 percent, were Asian or Asian-American. The report also found that female directors — both white (83.8 percent) and women of color (83.3 percent) — were more likely to have directed only one film during the eleven-year period than either white (54.4 percent), Asian (66.7 percent), or black (66.7 percent) male directors, and that while male directors ranged in age from the twenties to the eighties, the age of women directors ranged from the thirties through the sixties. The report also found that across the seven major media companies included in the study, women held 17.9 percent of the C-suite positions, 18.8 percent of the board seats, and 31 percent of the executive film team positions.

"Hollywood's 'female director problem' has been the source of much dialogue over the past several years," said Smith. "The evidence reveals that despite the increased attention, there has been no change for women behind the camera. Mere conversation is not the answer to these problems — and the time for conversation is up. Until major media companies take concrete steps to address the biases that impede hiring, nothing will change."

A separate study by Martha M. Lauzen of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that women accounted for 18 percent of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the two hundred and fifty top-grossing domestic films in 2017 — up a single percentage point from 2016. According to the report, The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2017 (7 pages, PDF), the percentage of women working in one of those six roles on top-grossing domestic has remained unchanged since 1998 and 2001, when women claimed 17 percent and 19 percent of those jobs. The report also found that only 1 percent of the two hundred and fifty top-grossing films in 2017 had employed at least ten women in those positions, compared with 70 percent for men.

"One percent versus 70 percent. That is just outrageous inequality," Lauzen told the Los Angeles Times. "This negligence has produced a toxic culture that supported the recent sexual harassment scandals and truncates so many women's careers."

"Hollywood's Hiring Freeze: Female, Black and Asian Directors Rarely Worked in 2017 Films." University of Southern California Press Release 01/03/2018. "Inclusion in the Director's Chair?." Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Report 01/03/2018. Martha M. Lauzen. "The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2017." Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University 01/10/2018. Meg James. "Study Reaffirms Struggles for Women In Hollywood to Land Meaningful Behind-the-Camera Roles." Los Angeles Times 01/10/2018.