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Scarcity of Female Directors Fuels Insufficient Representation

Illustration by Grace O’Keefe

The uphill battle and disadvantages female directors face from the beginning of their careers highlights how the Hollywood industry has become the biggest symbol of gender inequality in America. The Hollywood image is through the lens of the male gaze and profits off of the sexualization of women. Therefore, the pattern where male directors are hired more often is due to male directors having control of the cycle of objectification and large capital gains. Women directors are more likely to direct a film that portrays a feminist view on women, which equals less capital.

New research from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University continues to highlight how the film industry is dominated by men. In 2014, 85 percent of films had no female directors, 80 percent had no female writers, 33 percent had no female producers, 78 percent had no female editors and 92 percent had no female cinematographers.

It is no secret that the female voice has been silenced by the film industry. The reason we don’t see as many women receiving awards for successful directors has everything to do with gender bias, conscious or subconscious. 

The absence of female directors having power in these types of decisions has led to a less diverse workforce. When a woman is in a position if power, she is more likely to employ other women to work on the set thus diversifying and empowering women in Hollywood.

In the film industry, women directors and executive producers can serve as an essential gateway to the equal representation of women in the media and in the employment of other women in behind-the-scene roles. In films with female directors, women comprised 52 percent of writers, 35 percent of editors, and 26 percent of cinematographers. When men directed, the number of female writers shrank to eight percent, editors fell to fifteen percent and cinematographers dropped to five percent.

The same is true for directing opportunities. Women comprised twenty  percent of directors on projects where at least a third of the producers were female, but just seven percent of directors when the representation of female producers fell below that.

Films are an influential aspect of modern society and serve a purpose which far exceeds entertainment. The films that we see reflect the world around us. When there are fewer films directed by women we see the same pattern mirrored in our society where women are not seen holding high power positions.

Additionally, fewer female directors tend to mean fewer movies with powerful women leads. When young girls and women see these films with no leading actresses, it perpetuates the idea that women aren’t good enough. More female representation in Hollywood in any field, whether it be directing, editing, choreographing, producing, or acting, can only mean more empowered women in the future generations to come.

There is a stigma around female directors in Hollywood, that female directors are a bigger financial risk. “Many of these women directors have been told that they ‘can’t be trusted with money’ by studio executives,” Ariela Migdal, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told TIME in May. “This isn’t just about stereotypes and implicit bias, it’s about blatant discrimination. We heard over and over again from female directors that they’ve been told things such as ‘This show is to difficult for women’ or ‘You can’t do this movie, it’s action’ — this to women who have directed plenty of action.”

Additionally, women who do get to direct tend to receive smaller budgets for their films and face more hardships than male directors, such as workplace harassment and stricter artistic constraints, limiting their vision.

The women behind the cameras have a long road ahead of them to reach gender equality. As a society, we can’t ignore the fact that throughout the movie industry there is a prevalent pattern where women are less represented and objectified in the roles they play, and a way to combat this would be the inclusion of more female directors.

Female Directors such as Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins and A Wrinkle In Time’s Ava Duverney aren’t enough. When we have equal opportunity for women to attain directing roles,  then we can we express universal stories that reach  larger audiences.