The percentage of women working in key behind-the-scenes jobs on the 250 top-grossing domestic films “has barely budged” during the past two decades – increasing by only 4 percentage points from 17% in 1998 to 21% last year. That’s according to the latest “Celluloid Ceiling” report from Dr. Martha Lauzen, founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
“The celluloid ceiling has proven to be far more resilient than we ever could have imagined,” Lauzen said. “Despite the countless panels, repeated calls for voluntary programs and promises of change, the percentages of women working on top-grossing films have remained relatively stable over the last two decades.”
As seen in the charts below, however, women have made some significant gains since the rise of the #MeToo movement in late-2017, with the percentage of women directors nearly doubling since 2016, rising from 7% to a high of 13% last year, and the percentage of women writers increasing from 11% to 19% in the past three years.
See the full report here.
Prior to the pandemic, the percentage of women directors of these top-grossing films rose 4 percentage points (from 9% in 1998 to 13% in 2019) – a 44% increase in 20 years. Women writers experienced the largest gains, with their percentage rising 6 points (from 13% in 1998 to 19% in 2019),marking a 46% increase over 20 years.
The percentage of women producers rose just 3 percentage points (from 24% in 1998 to 27% in 2019), with similar increases for female executive producers (18% to 21%), and editors (20% to 23%). “The percentage of women cinematographers remained virtually unchanged,” she said, noting that their share of the work increased by only 1 percentage point from 4% in 1998 to 5% in 2019 – a 25% increase in 20 years.
“A number of big-budget films originally slated for release in the 2020 pre-pandemic world – including Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey, Niki Caro’s Mulan, Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman 1984, Chloé Zhao’s The Eternals and Cate Shortland’s Black Widow – promised to generate momentum for the issue of gender inclusion in the mainstream film industry this year,” Lauzen said. “Some industry observers even predicted that 2020 would mark a turning point in women’s employment. But it is unclear whether this handful of films signals real movement in Hollywood’s comfort level with women directors or is a short-lived response to external pressures. The long view provided by ‘The Celluloid Ceiling’ suggests that evolutionary change is more likely than a revolutionary shift.”
The disappointing gains made by women on top-grossing films stand in stark contrast to the “historic gains” Lauzen documented in October in a report on independent films. That report, titled “Indie Women,” cited more than a dozen categories in which women attained “recent historic highs” as directors, writers, producers, editors and cinematographers of indie feature films and documentaries.
And as seen in the charts below, women have also made some significant gains since the beginning of the #MeToo movement in late-2017, with the percentage of women directors of the 250 top-grossing films nearly doubling since 2016, rising from 7% to a high of 13% last year, and the percentage of women writers increasing from 11% to 19% over the last three years.
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