European Human Rights Council Condemns Gender Bias in Film Industry

Inside the Council of Europe’s meeting chambers. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers issued its first pan-European recommendation last week. It aims to create practical solutions to eliminate gender bias from the film industry. While the council cannot mandate that any EU-affiliated states participate in the suggestions of the recommendation, nor can they enforce it, the council said they hope it puts political pressure on governments and corporations, according to a press release.

The recommendation outlines barriers to gender equality in the film sector—such as unequal investment and employment opportunities, low female representation on executive boards and unequal pay—and urges states involved in the EU to support the implementation of the recommendation.

The Hollywood Reporter picked up the news, dubbing the report a “body slam” to the industry.

The report advises European governments to collect updated statistics that monitor gender inequality, review and expand legislation to encourage inclusivity and promote research on inequality in the film industry.

Technology, journalism and art are just a few of the industries that rival Hollywood in gender inequality. A 2014 study led by Dr. Stacy Smith, Ph.D., and her team at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, found that women made up 30.2 percent of all speaking roles or named characters in the 700 biggest box office films from 2007 to 2014. Only 28 of those films were directed by women.

The answer to this problem, according to the Committee of Ministers, is to promote media literacy and enable young people to “acquire a critical view of representations of women and men and to decode sexist stereotypes.” Geena Davis, who founded an eponymous institute to promote gender equality in the media in 2006, told Observer in a 2015 interview that “this absence of women is drumming this message into kids’ heads that girls aren’t as important as boys.”

“I also think that there’s a sort of axiom that Hollywood lives by that says women will watch men, but men won’t watch women,” she said. “So we never gain any momentum, despite the evidence that female-led movies can be incredibly successful.”

European Human Rights Council Condemns Gender Bias in Film Industry