Where are all the female directors?

During my time in ASCJ 200 this semester, I have explored the inequalities females face working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. Through research, digital projects, and trolling Twitter threads, I have learned so much about an issue close to my heart, which has inspired my career goals. After graduating the University of Southern California, I hope to create my own production company entirely staffed by a diverse group of women. I am extremely passionate about film and television, and through my female driven production company, I hope to express my artistic skills and focus on directing. Due to my career goals and aspirations, I focused my final project, the advocacy project, on the underrepresentation of female directors.

When people think “Director”, they automatically visualize a man. This is because the most famous directors, such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and James Cameron, are males. Male directors receive many more opportunities than female directors in Hollywood. This inequality is rooted in society, as we see male executives much more often than we see females. Men in power tend to hire other males because they see it as a safe choice. According to the American Association of University Women, gender bias contributes to scenarios in which women are “evaluated as less competent, less hirable, and less valuable than identically qualified male counterparts” (AAUW).

In Hollywood, women are viewed as less competent and qualified to make blockbuster films due to stereotypes. Many women are not offered jobs as directors because of the belief that women can only make “girly movies”. This is not only false, but extremely offensive to women. As a twenty-year old woman, I would not be caught dead at a rom com in theaters; in fact, I prefer drama, action and horror films. What executives in Hollywood need to understand, is that women can be good at making movies that are not girly. Directors spend hours studying the work of other directors, and they learn the best tactics and skills from their programs. They will then apply what they have learned when directing and creating their original content. Women who are passionate about drama, action, and horror movies, can create successful movies just as well as men can. Once again…NOT EVERYTHING WOMEN DO IS GIRLY.

Women also face the stereotype that they will be too emotional on set. As a director, it is your job to control the artistic and dramatic aspects as a film, as you guide the cast and crew to fulfill your vision for the project. Women tend to be labeled bossy if they exert any type of control. They are portrayed as emotional tyrants on set, ordering the crew and cast to perform as they wish. This stereotype is also extremely offensive towards women. If a female director has an emotional outburst they are considered a BITCH, but if a male director has an outburst, he is considered a GENIUS. This double standard is hurting women’s careers in the entertainment industry. Not only are women not being hired for jobs due to these false stereotypes, but they are not even given the opportunity to be a contender for certain jobs. Hollywood must fix its gender bias for women to succeed.

As discussed in my advocacy video project (posted above), the statistics representing female directors says it all. In a clip featured in the project, Glamour’s Editor in Chief, Cindi Leive, hosts a “Women in Hollywood Directors Roundtable Talk”. She explicitly focuses her attention on the staggering statistics of female directors in Hollywood. Leive points out, “if you look at the top 100 grossing films of the last year, only 4% were directed by women” (Glamour). Not only are males receiving more opportunities than women, but they are also gaining more recognition for their work. If women are only able to direct 4% of the year’s top 100 films, there is little opportunity for their work to be recognized. It is even harder for women to be recognized for their work because of the gender inequality in the academy. According to an article written by Rebecca Keegan, Sandra Poindexter, and Glenn Whipp for the Los Angeles Times, males make up “76% of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences” (Los Angeles Times). Members of the Academy are responsible for voting on Oscar award recipients. This means, out of over 6,000 members, women only makeup around 1,500 spots. Not only were 76% of members’ males, but 91% of voters are white. Majority of voters and directors are white males, exactly what one would assume a director would look like, according to a clip featured in my video project, titled, The 4%: Film’s Gender Problem: Think Director. Think Male (Epix). When people think of a director, they picture exactly what is represented in the statistics in the entertainment industry. The problem with these statistics is they have not changed.

In the year 2000, 7% of all directors who worked on the top one hundred films were females. However, women only represent 4% of directors working on the top one hundred films today. Instead of opportunities becoming better for women due to a greater acknowledgement of gender equality, statistics prove that less women have been hired in the past seventeen years. The seriousness of this problem is finally starting to gain momentum and work in favor of women. As stated in the clip from the “Women in Hollywood Directors Roundtable Talk”, Leive mentions the investigation the EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is pursuing regarding the lack of female directors in Hollywood. The EEOC is currently in settlement talks with the major studios to resolve the charges that they discriminated against female directors. According to David Robb, a journalist at Deadline, “Every one of the major studios has received a charge contending that they failed to hire women directors” (Deadline). Over fifty female directors have sent letters to the EEOC, detailing their personal stories and the obstacles they faced when trying to get hired for jobs at the major movie studios. Hopefully the investigation will come to an end soon, forcing studios to give female directors the opportunities they deserve.

Although female directors will potentially gain great strides after the EEOC investigation is through and when charges have been filed against the major studios, it does not change Hollywood’s core mindset. Executives need to realize that the younger generation of women are just as determined and capable to direct films as males are. The rates of women and men graduating from film school are equal, this means that men are not more educated than females in how to direct. They are equally knowledgeable, and therefore should be granted the same opportunities. Women also need to help other women. This is the most crucial aspect if females want other females to succeed. Women in power need to employ female directors, and persuade their male colleagues to hire more women; this is the only way Hollywood is going to change. If women are given more opportunities, it allows them a greater chance of success. More opportunities allow women to pave the way for other and future female directors, because Hollywood could not ignore the fact that women are excelling in directing.

In conclusion, Hollywood has yet to give female directors the opportunities they deserve. Hopefully, with the acknowledgement of the inequalities women face in the entertainment industry, executives and studios will work to hire more female directors. 

CBS News Web Extras. “Federal Government investigating lack of female Hollywood directors”. YouTube. YouTube, 07 Oct. 2015. Web. 04 May 2017.

GlamourMag. “Women in Hollywood: Directors Roundtable Talk”. YouTube. YouTube, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 04 May 2017.

In STEM Fields, Many Employers Hire.AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2017.

Keegan, Rebecca , Sandra Poindexter, and Glenn Whipp. “91% white. 76% male. Changing who votes on the Oscars won’t be easy.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, n.d. Web. 04 May 2017.

Movieclips. “Legally Blonde (1/11) Movie CLIP – Warner Breaks Up With Elle (2001) HD”. YouTube. YouTube, 30 Nov. 2015. Web. 04 May 2017.

Movieclips. “R.S.V.P. – Clueless (1/9) Movie CLIP (1995) HD”. YouTube. YouTube, 08 Oct. 2011. Web. 04 May 2017

Oscars. “Alejandro G. Iñárritu Wins Best Directing”. YouTube. YouTube, 09 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 May 2017.

Oscars. “Kathryn Bigelow Wins Best Directing: 2010 Oscars”. YouTube. YouTube, 10 Mar. 2010. Web. 04 May 2017.

Oscars. “Martin Scorsese Wins Best Directing: 2007 Oscars”. YouTube. YouTube, 03 Feb. 2009. Web. 04 May 2017.

Oscars. “Steven Spielberg Wins Best Directing: 1999 Oscars”. YouTube. YouTube, 14 Mar. 2008. Web. 04 May 2017.

Oscars. “Tom Hooper winning the Oscar® for Directing”. YouTube. YouTube, 03 Mar. 2011. Web. 04 May 2017.

Robb, David. “EEOC: Major Studios Failed To Hire Female Directors; Lawsuit Looms.” Deadline. N.p., 15 Feb. 2017. Web. 04 May 2017.

The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2016.” Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 May 2017.


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