2 reports show women still struggle in Hollywood, black men make strides

Font Size

THREE of the movies that were directed by women that were released in 2018.

LOS ANGELES — African-American men made measurable progress in gaining top jobs in Hollywood last year, though women — and particularly non-white women — continue to miss out.

The state of women in movies was borne out in a study by the San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, released on Thursday, which showed that only 8% of Hollywood’s top films in 2018 were directed by women, down from 11% the prior year, despite high-profile efforts to improve gender equality.

The percentage is roughly unchanged from two decades ago, according to the annual study, which found a “radical underrepresentation” of women in the industry.

“The study provides no evidence that the mainstream film industry has experienced the profound positive shift predicted by so many industry observers over the last year,” study author Martha Lauzen, executive director of San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, said in a statement.

The center has been producing the “Celluloid Ceiling” report for 21 years.

Allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood became public in late 2017, prompting calls for more women at all levels of the entertainment business.

Yet in 2018, women accounted for just 8% of directors of the 250 highest-grossing Hollywood films, less than the 9% in 1998.

The overall percentage of women in behind-the-scenes movie roles rose to 20% from 18% in 2017. Women were most represented as producers, making up 26% of the total. Just 4% of cinematographers were female.

“This radical underrepresentation is unlikely to be remedied by the voluntary efforts of a few individuals or a single studio,” Ms. Lauzen said. “Without a large-scale effort mounted by the major players — the studios, talent agencies, guilds, and associations — we are unlikely to see meaningful change.”

Movies directed by women in 2018 included Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Meanwhile, according to the latest annual survey from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, 16 of the top 100 movies produced last year were made by black directors, a historically high figure that shows Hollywood can improve diversity. However, only one of those directors was a woman: A Wrinkle in Time’s Ms. DuVernay. That’s one of many signs of slow progress for women and Asians, the study said, with a scant percentage of directing jobs going to those groups over the past dozen years. That was especially true for women of color.

The progress for African-American men in Hollywood comes after years of pressure. The #OscarsSoWhite campaign that emerged in 2015 drove the motion-picture academy to increase the diversity of its membership by highlighting awards shows that routinely overlook noteworthy performances by black actors. Against the backdrop of sexual-harassment scandals rocking Hollywood, the new Annenberg report shows women continue to confront a lack of opportunity.

“Women of color are nearly invisible in film production — whether as directors, producers, or in below-the-line crew positions,” said Stacy Smith, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s founder and director, as well as author of the study.

For the first time, the University of Southern California study looked at data on producers and so-called below-the-line positions — film crew jobs — across the top 300 movies from 2016 to 2018.

Just 11% of the “Produced by” credits over the last three years went to individuals from underrepresented groups. Men held 97% of the cinematographer jobs and 84.5% of the editing jobs, the report said.

“Only one woman of color worked as a composer across the 300 films we examined and there were no underrepresented female directors of photography,” Ms. Smith said.

Not surprisingly, the study also found that films with underrepresented producers were more likely to be directed by an individual from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. That was true, though also less pronounced, with female producers and female directors.

On the other hand, women fared much better in lower roles: They accounted for 34% of second assistant directors and 32% of unit production managers. Few women worked as first assistant directors, at 9%.

The researchers also looked at the executive and board ranks of seven major entertainment companies. Women made up 25% of board members, an improvement from 19% last year. The study found 17% of top management positions were held by women.

Looking more deeply at the film divisions, women held 23% of the president and chairperson roles, with higher percentage in the executive vice-president, senior vice-president and vice-president ranks. Women of color held just 6% of film executive team roles, the report said.

Sony Pictures distributed five films with black directors last year, the highest-performing company in the analysis. Walt Disney Co. released two films with an African-American director, the first ever for the company across the 12-year stretch the researchers have looked at. — Reuters/Bloomberg