The Extreme Gender Bias in Hollywood Employment Is Not Improving

The Celluloid Ceiling is not going away. Representation in headlines doesn't translate to representation behind the scenes.

Since 1998, the number of women working off-camera in films has only increased by 8 percentage points. Source: The Celluloid Ceiling. Created with Datawrapper.

The percentages of women directors in the top 100 U.S. films dropped to 12% in 2021, following record highs in 2020, according to The Celluloid Ceiling’s 24th annual report.

The study, conducted by San Diego State University’s Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, found that the number of women working off-camera on movies has only increased 8 percentage points from 17% in 1998 to 25% in 2021.

Lauzen’s findings highlight that increased dialogue surrounding women in the film industry has not led to a major change in representation in behind-the-scenes roles.

“Given the volume of public and industry dialogue, the countless panels and pledges on this issue, wouldn’t we expect there to be more substantial growth over the last 2 decades?” Lauzen wrote in an email to the Observer.

Lauzen, who has been tracking women’s representation in the film industry for over 20 years, said that the emergence of social media stars and the creator economy will not fix the fundamental issues in the film industry: “While users of new platforms, female and male, may have greater familiarity and facility with visual media, the same barriers to entry in the mainstream film business remain. Women’s under-employment on these issues is not a pipeline issue,” she wrote. “The hope has been that the women working on indie productions would eventually be hired to work on studio features, as has been the case for men,” Lauzen added.

The study also accounted for changing viewership habits due to the ongoing pandemic by analyzing the Digital Entertainment Group’s Watched at Home List. The DEG’s list found that women made up 13% of writers, 21% executive of producers, and 19% of editors.

“We know the names of the women who have helmed studio tentpole features — Chloe Zhao, Patty Jenkins, and a few others — because they are relatively rare,” Lauzen said. “To conclude that women have achieved great success or some level of parity on the basis of just a few high-profile women leads us to inaccurate conclusions.” The Extreme Gender Bias in Hollywood Employment Is Not Improving