Universal is the first big Hollywood studio to sign the female-director challenge

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UNIVERSAL PICTURES, part of Comcast Corp., became the first major movie studio to commit to the “4% Challenge,” a bid to rectify the lack of female directors in Hollywood.

As part of the campaign, which refers to the percentage of films directed by women over the past decade, the studio said it plans to work with at least one female director on a feature film in the next 18 months. The challenge was kicked off at the Sundance Film Festival this year by producer Nina Jacobson and director Paul Feig, among others.

The move is part of a broader push by the entertainment industry to diversify its ranks, long dominated by white men. But the progress has been particularly slow in Hollywood’s directors chairs. This year, no women were nominated for the best directing Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Universal Pictures’ pledge was backed by the head of production, Peter Cramer; Peter Kujawski, chairman of its Focus Features division; and DreamWorks Animation President Margie Cohn.

While hiring one woman in 18 months may not seem like a huge step, it’s a sign of progress in an industry where movies are planned years ahead of time.

“This is big,” Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of Women and Hollywood, said on Twitter after Universal’s announcement. “This is a studio pledging to work with women.” — Bloomberg