Why Not Women? Studies Find Indie Films Aren’t Hiring Women Directors

If you happen to be a fan of film (or feminism) you may know that the number of females working in the film industry is shockingly low. According to a study by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, in 2018, only 8% of the top 250 grossing films were directed by women. Already a poor number, this was a decrease of 3% since 2017. Knowing this, it’s safe to say that women are having a difficult time being represented in today’s film culture. While the year is not yet over, 2019 has appeared more hopeful for women aspiring to work in the film industry. Films like Booksmart, Little Women and The Farewell have shown that there is a real opportunity for women to be successful directors.

For most of cinematic history, independent film studios have been known to be the most willing to hire females for acting, producing, and directing. While indie studios have the right to claim that they have more gender equality than big film studios, there is still a stark imbalance in the number of females employed as directors compared to males. Studies have shown that since 2015, the disparity between male and female directors has barely improved.

The newest study of women in independent film done by Lauzen has tracked the numbers of women employed in behind-the-screen roles to show the ever-prevailing gender inequality in the film industry. Published in June 2019, Lauzen’s research has shown that men account for 68% of all directors, writers, producers, editors and cinematographers in independent film while women only comprise the remaining 32%.

Although the 38% of women in behind-the-screen roles during 2019 is higher than the 28% of women who directed independent films in 2018, there are still many strides for women that need to be made before they achieve equality in the business. Lauzen states that “despite these increases, it is important to note that women remain dramatically underrepresented, with independent films employing more than twice as many men as women in these roles.”

Courtesy: Emily Tomczak

Hollywood is in dire need of more females behind the screen in both the independent and big-name studios. Lauzen stresses that “the film industry continues to lag behind even our most staid political institutions. The side-by-side comparison offers a way of conceptualizing how little Hollywood has changed over the last two decades.” Her most recent study, titled “Indie Women,” has found that films who hire at least one female director are also more likely to employ higher numbers of female writers, producers, editors and cinematographers. “These differences are dramatic and demonstrate that when women direct films, they disrupt traditional hiring patterns,” states Lauzen.

The increasing percentages of women working behind the scenes have been the result of a good faith effort by society to generate more equality in the film industry. For decades there has been a fight for gender equality, not only for women in film but also for women of all career paths. Even though there is still a long way to go before achieving a perfect 50-50 ratio of males to females in the workplace, it is encouraging to have solid numerical proof that equality and female success is on the rise. As time moves forward, we can only hope to see the continued increase of women in key behind-the-scenes roles of the film business. Now more than ever, it is important to advocate and push the work and talent of all women interested in pursuing a career in filmmaking.

Courtesy: Emily Tomczak

To learn more, check out https://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/about-us/ for current information and statistics about women in the film industry.

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