Oscars 2009, Kathryn Bigelow
Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Two years after Kathryn Bigelow made history by becoming the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, the gender gap between Academy-acknowledged directors is still very real. Witness the man-centric short list announced this morning: Woody, Marty, Terry, Alexander Payne, and Michel Hazanavicius. Certainly, those directors accomplished amazing things and deserve their nominations, but it’s also worth noting that there wasn’t even a single female director in the pre-nominations conversation.

Certainly, the lack of female directors overall is a major stumbling block. A study was released today that showed female directors only accounted for 5% of the films made in 2011. Among that list are many formidable women: Phyllida Lloyd whose The Iron Lady received two nods, Gotham Breakthrough Director Award winner Dee Rees of Pariah, and We Need To Talk About Kevin‘s BAFTA-nominated Lynne Ramsay. Granted that already makes a shot at Oscar glory an uphill battle for lady helmers, especially when you consider it’s nearly half of the percentage (9%) of females behind the camera in 1998.

Of course, none of this justifies or explains why there have been only four female Best Director nominees in Oscar history: Bigelow, Lina Wertmüller for 1976’s Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for 1993’s The Piano, and Sofia Coppola for 2003’s Lost in Translation. Considering it’s Oscar’s 84th year, that’s well below the 5% (in fact, it’s 0.95%).

What is it that’s keeping female directors from rising to the top? From being a thing at all? Are studios afraid to trust women? Is Hollywood — with its wheeling and dealing — still too much of a boys club to let the ladies get in on the action? And is there any hope for change?

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