It’s Still Hard Out Here for Women Directors

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Contrary to all of the “women in film” rhetoric of the last few years—especially that which followed Wonder Woman, the movie that was supposed to save feminism—Hollywood is not actually that inclusive. Shocker!

A new study by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that women made up only 10.6 percent of the directors of 2019’s top movies. That’s not even the sad news: apparently that number is the highest it has been in the 13 years of film the study examined, which included 1,300 of the top-grossing movies from 2007 to 2019. Throughout that time period, women accounted for only 4.8 percent of directors. Here’s a fun graph that highlights the disparity:

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Screenshot: USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

Conditions are even worse for women of color. “Less than 1% of all directors across 13 years were women of color,” Dr. Stacy L. Smith told Deadline. “In fact, 13 women have directed a top film in 13 years.” However, audiences appear to like films directed by women of color more than other populations. Gotta love Hollywood. “Women of color received the highest median and average Metacritic scores for their films compared to white male-, underrepresented male-, and white female-directed content,” Smith continued. “Yet, women of color are least likely to work as directors across the top 100 films each year. These findings suggest that when companies seek to hire ‘the best person for the job,’ they are not relying on objective criteria, but on a subjective view of storytellers.”

Screenshot: USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

As the new decade begins, it would be really nice to see these numbers change. At the very least, there should be more transparency between what “more women in Hollywood” means—there’s representation on screen, sure, but behind the scenes is where real, powerful change is made.

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