Despite all the attention centered on progress of female directors in Hollywood in 2016 — from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s probe into gender discrimination to the growing amount of media coverage dedicated to the subject — the number of women helming movies declined to just 7 percent, according to the annual report released by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
That figure — focused on the top 250 domestic grossing films — is a drop of two percentage points from 9 percent in 2015. It also proves that no significant change has occurred since the study began in 1998 when female directors made up 9 percent of the total close to 20 years ago.
“The findings indicate that women who direct films actually lost ground in 2016,” says Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center. “The current small-scale remedies for women’s under-employment, while they may be well-intentioned and benefit a handful of individuals, are ineffective in addressing this issue.”
Last May, the EEOC expanded its circle of interview subjects as part of its investigation into a pattern of gender bias in film and television. The EEOC, which never publicly confirmed the investigation, has yet to take legal action against the studios or the talent agencies, or even issue results of their findings. Meanwhile, progress for women in the directing arena have remained stagnant.
Matters don’t seem to be improving in other creative film jobs. Women accounted for 13 percent of writers, 17 percent of executive producers, 24 percent of producers, 17 percent of editors, and 5 percent of cinematographers. Overall, women comprised 17 percent of individuals working in these roles. This represents a decline of two percentage points from 2015 and is even with the figure obtained in 1998.
“Women working in key behind-the-scenes roles have yet to benefit from the current dialogue regarding diversity and inclusion in the film industry,” adds Lauzen.
The most prominent female filmmakers from 2016 included Jodie Foster and her film Money Monster, Sharon Maguire’s Bridget Jones’s Baby, and Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe (seen in the photo above on the set of her film).
Among high-profile female filmmakers releasing films this year are Patty Jenkins, whose Wonder Woman is expected to be a big hit after it arrives in theaters in June, and Kathryn Bigelow, who directed an untitled drama about the 1967 Detroit riots. In 2018, meanwhile, Disney will release Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.