A new study shows that female directors constituted only 4 percent of the 1,114 directors helming the top-grossing movies over the past decade. The study, released by USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, also revealed that in Hollywood, female directors are usually “one and done.”
According to the study, female directors were more likely than their male counterparts to make only a single fictional movie in the past decade. While 80 percent of women made only one top-grossing movie in the years studied between 2007 and 2016, the percentage of men who worked on only one movie is 54.8 percent. When it comes to women of color, the disparity is even more glaring. 83.3 percent of female directors of color only made one movie in the past decade, which represents a 4 percent difference compared to white female directors (79.3 percent), a 20.8 percent difference compared to black males (62.5 percent), and a 29 percent difference compared to non-black and non-Asian male directors (54.3 percent).
The study also shows that the top-performing male director of the years sampled was Tyler Perry, who has directed 14 of the top-grossing films over the past 10 years. His highest-earning movie, according to Box Office Mojo, is Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail, which grossed $109,038,600 (adjusted for inflation) in its run. The top-performing female director of the past decade was Anne Fletcher, who has directed films like The Proposal, 27 Dresses, and Hot Pursuit. Her highest-grossing movie is The Proposal, which made $190,077,600 (adjusted for inflation). However, statistics from the USC study show us that between the years of 2007 and 2016, Fletcher only made four of the top films of the decade, while Perry made 14. In other words, the top-performing male director made three times as many females as the top-performing female director.
The distressing numbers disclosed by the study dovetails with the increasing attention in the media lately regarding the lack of female directors and other behind-the-camera professions. The Hollywood Reporter recently reported that there are no female directors nominated in the category of Best Director. Sadly, this has often been the case for the Academy Awards. Since the inception of the Academy Awards in 1929, only four women have been nominated for Best Director. Of those four nominees, only one female director has actually won. In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for her movie The Hurt Locker.
Variety has pointed out that despite the push for diversity, 80 percent of the Oscars nominees in non-acting categories this year was made up by men. While director Ava DuVernay’s 13th, a documentary about racial inequality and the U.S.’s prison system, has been nominated for Best Documentary, there is a dearth of females in all the major categories, including directors, cinematography, and original screenplay. This is not a solitary incident, as the article reports that between 2005 to 2016, women occupied only 19 percent of Oscar nominations in non-acting categories.
In their study, the USC researchers have offered solutions to redress the gender inequality in Hollywood. If the lack of female directors can be addressed by the different constituencies of the movie industry, including studio heads, producers, agents, actors and actresses, and filmgoers and educators, it will be easier to expedite change. Guidelines and consideration lists that dictate a certain percentage of candidates must be female can be adopted by studio heads and producers to ensure that more female directors are put into consideration. A-list talent can stipulate in their contracts that more inclusive hiring practices must be implemented. And filmgoers can do their part by paying to see films helmed by female or under-represented directors.
[Featured Image by Mike Windle/Getty Images]