Why We Need More Women in Hollywood and Television

Movies and television are important shapers of culture and provide us with role models for ways to be in the world. I remember the first time I saw a woman portrayed in a movie as a strong heroine. She was the warrior in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the year 2000, and I was thrilled to see a woman as the lead on screen showing strength, cleverness, and tenderness. Most recently we have the character of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies. Her creator, author Suzanne Collins, presents young girls and women a complex role model who never settles into a stereotype, is never upstaged by a love interest, is both a hunter and nurturer, and who has positive relationships with women. But this chance to see such a role model is rare: this is the first movie with a lone female lead to top the annual domestic box office in four decades. It is not just as lead characters that we need more female presence in film and television. Women as screenwriters, directors, editors, and producers have important talents and contributions to make as role models and shapers of culture; however, gender discrimination is even worse in Hollywood than in Silicon Valley and corporate America, and women are shut out. In 2005, actress Geena Davis commissioned a research project at the University of Southern California to study the issue and bring attention to gender discrimination in Hollywood. Here are some of the findings from that research:

  • Between 2007 and 2014, women made up only 30.2 percent of speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing fictional films.
  • Between 2013 and 2014, women were only 1.9 percent of the directors of the 100 top-grossing films.
  • In 2014, the six major studios released only three movies with a female director.
  • In 2014, 95 percent of cinematographers, 89 percent of screenwriters, 82 percent of editors, 81 percent of executive producers, and 77 percent of producers were men.
  • A recent Directors Guild analysis of 277 television series in 2014 found women directed only 16 percent.
  • The Writers Guild of America Staff Board showed women’s share of writing positions for television has flatlined since 2001 and is the worst on staffs of late night shows, where women represent only 18 percent of writers.
Events in the past year have brought additional problems to light that helped trigger an industry-wide investigation by the ACLU and EEOC into gender discrimination, which has yet to be resolved. One of the additional problems highlighted came out in the data hacked from Sony Pictures databases which revealed that female stars, such as Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams, were paid less than their lesser-known male costars. What can we do? Fixing the gender problem in Hollywood requires that we raise awareness of the problems by talking with others and lending support to women in the industry. I try to do this by noticing the credits and commenting on the presence or lack of women in creative roles. We can also tweet and post our support for women in Hollywood and television. They influence our culture, and we need their perspectives and talents.   Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]]>