Despite a slew of films such as Jackie, 20th Century Women, Arrival, and La La Land featuring strong, complex women front-and-center, the number of female Oscar nominees for behind-the-scenes roles dropped at the 89th annual Academy Award nominations, announced Tuesday. In fact, according to an analysis by the Women’s Media Center, cofounded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, only 20 percent of the non-acting categories featured women, dipping 2 percentage points from last year’s nominations.
For the seventh year in a row, no female directors were nominated in the directing category. (Kathryn Bigelow is still the only woman to take home the prize for her 2008 film The Hurt Locker. Only three other women, including Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, and Sofia Coppola, have ever been nominated in the category.) Only one woman — Hidden Figures screenwriter Allison Schroeder — was lauded in the screenwriting category. And the cinematography category continued its streak of nominating only men in its 89-year history.
“We have a saying: ‘If you can see it, you can be it,’ but in the crucial behind-the-scenes non-acting roles, our investigation shows that what you see is 80 percent of all nominees are men,” says Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. “Four out of five nominees are men — meaning male voices and perspectives are largely responsible for what we see on screen.”
On the positive side, nine women were nominated as producers in the Best Picture category — the largest nominations count in any category. And Ava Duvernay, who in 2014 was the first African-American woman to have a film she directed nominated for a Best Picture with Selma, was honored with a nomination in the Documentary Feature category for her Netflix film 13th, about the history of African-American and mass incarceration.
Women also made some strides in a few categories often limited to men. Mica Levy, the composer of Jackie, became the first woman nominated for her work in that category since 2000. Joi McMillon, co-editor of Moonlight, became the first African-American woman ever nominated in editing. Kimberly Steward, the producer of Manchester by the Sea, became the second African-American woman after Oprah Winfrey (Selma) to be nominated for a Best Picture. And Dede Gardner landed her fourth consecutive nomination for producing this year’s Moonlight. She had previously been recognized for The Big Short, Selma, and 12 Years a Slave.
This news follows the equally dispiriting report from San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film that announced earlier this month that only 17 percent of all the directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the 250 top-grossing films (domestically) in 2016 were women. And the number of women helming those films dropped 2 points from the previous year.
Despite efforts by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to further diversity its membership by adding a slew of women and minorities to their rolls, little has changed for women trying to break into the business. And even with all the talk of 2016 being a banner year for actresses, Emma Stone is the only lead actress whose film is also nominated for Best Picture with La La Land. Jackie, Elle, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Loving were all shut out of that race.
“The perspectives, experiences, and voices of more than half the population deserve an equal seat at the table,” Burton says.