Seventy women representing a record 76 Oscar nominations translated to a record number of female wins Sunday with 17 awards, beating a previous high of 15 set in 2019 and running the gamut from Best Director and Best Picture to Original Screenplay, Animated Film and Original Song.
The 2019 Oscars, for films out in 2018, had the same number of women winners but fewer awards. Two of the nominees, Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand took home two awards each — all for Nomadland. This year’s awards were also more prominent. Winners from both years included the two acting awards.
“What an incredible night full of firsts for women,” said Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women In Film, LA, calling the night “a great celebration of talent and an inspiration for all of the women who work in the screen industries especially those behind the camera.”
“Fifteen women won 17 awards tonight with the first time for Black women in hair and makeup, the first Asian woman to win for Director (and the second woman ever). And Glenn Close did “Da Butt” at the Oscars!” she said. (See that video here.)
In 2020, there were more women nominees but only 13 winners. Only six women won in 2018. The previous high was 12 female wins in 2015 and in 2007.
The list of awards includes:
Chloé Zhao, best director for Nomadland
Zhao along with Frances McDormand and Mollye Asher, best picture, for Nomadland
Emerald Fennell, for best original screenplay for Promising Young Woman
Dana Murray for best animated feature Soul
Pippa Ehrlich, for best documentary feature winner My Octopus Teacher
Alice Doyard for best documentary short, Colette
Anne Roth for costume design for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (the oldest woman to win a competitive Oscar)
Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson for makeup & hairstyle for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Michelle Couttolenc for sound, for Sound of Metal
Jan Pascale, production design, for Mank
H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas for original song “Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah
Yuh-jung Youn, for best supporting actress for Minari, setting a few records. She’s the first Korean actress to nominated, and win, in an acting category. Best actress went to Frances McDormand for Nomadland.
WIF, which closely follow women’s long and arduous push to break entertainment industry glass ceilings, campaigned this Oscar season with a dedicated ballot listing all women nominated in non-acting categories — from best director and picture, to documentary feature to original song. That followed a much longer list it circulated on social media of all women who had worked in key categories on all Oscar-eligible films — taking aim at the excuse that there aren’t enough female nominees or women working in the industry at a high level.
The biggest news was Nomadland‘s Zhao, only the second woman to take the Best Director prize since Kathryn Bigelow won in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. She is also the first woman of color and first Chinese person to win. Sunday was the first time that two women, Zhao and Fennell, director of Promising Young Women, have ever competed for the category in the same year.
(Many had expected a nomination for Regina King in the category for One Night in Miami since she was nominated alongside Zhao and Fennell at the Golden Globes. She wasn’t, but the film was nominated in three other categories.)
In the Academy Award’s 93-year history, only five women have made it onto the ballot before this year — Lina Wertmuller (1976, Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (1993, The Piano), Sofia Coppola (2003, Lost in Translation), Bigelow and Greta Gerwig (2017, Lady Bird).
Fennell was the first woman to win original screenplay, for Promising Young Woman, since Diablo Cody in 2007 for Juno.
Other highlights include Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, the first Black women to win in the Makeup & Hairstyling category for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom along with Sergio Lopez-Rivera. And Ma Rainey star Viola Davis is the most-nominated Black actress in Oscar history with four noms, and the only one with two lead acting noms.