Hollywood is biased against women. (Everything I say goes for blacks, latinos, and asians as well - but I'm not as well informed about those issues, so I'll stick to speaking about women.)
I beat this drum often.
Why? Because it's true, as backed up by studies, and yet I am still told by people both in the industry and trying to break into it that it's a myth. I am told that there must just be few women trying to break in. Or (more insultingly) that it's all about talent and hard work, and that real talent will find a champion - implying that women are either less talented, or less hard-working, or both than men by a massive ratio. Because, again, statistics show that there are far fewer women in important roles in the movie industry.
I strongly believe that one of the most significant barriers to change in this is this lack of belief that there's a problem. This is backed up by the experiences of Geena Davis, who noticed, as she was raising her children, that there were not as many girls in the lead roles in kids entertainment. Her subjective experience was dismissed, so she started a foundation, and studied the matter - and then approached people with evidence. And many of them re-thought their casting, or their writing.
I understand when people dismiss the stories I relate. Stories about women I have talked to who have been told they can't write or direct action, or can't direct period. Who have been told they'd do better as a producer, because no one will hire them as a director. That no one will hire them as a cinematographer, because women don't work behind the camera. Or that they are not hired for crew because it's heavy, hard work, and out on location there might not be a place to plug in a curling iron. Or that women can't write for an international audience, because the asian market is mostly male. Women who have had men look past them and talk to their 15 years junior male assistant. Or been told that they are too pretty, and men won't want to work with them because their wives might get jealous of all the time they'd have to spend together. Or that Catherine Hardwicke was told she wouldn't even be allowed to pitch directing The Fighter, not because she's only directed teen fare, but "because it had to be directed by a man."
What I don't understand is how people can look at the statistics on women in film and still say there is not a problem, and a large one. How they can think that such large discrepancies would be based on anything other than discrimination. Some of it conscious, but most of it just a matter of guys relating more easily to guys in an industry that's all about who you know.
What are the statistics?
According to the most recent report by the Director's Guild about television series -
"In the 2009-2010 television season, Caucasian males directed 75% of the episodes surveyed; Caucasian females directed 11% of episodes; minority males directed 12% of episodes; and minority females directed 2% of episodes."
Per the most recent study by the WGA -
"women writers remain stuck at 28 percent of television employment, while their share of film employment actually declined a percentage point since the last report to 17 percent."
"These figures indicate a [...] gender earnings gap [of] $14,017. [...] Nonetheless, this relative gain on the earnings front for women film writers was offset somewhat by the recent loss in employment share"
From the 2010 Celluloid Ceiling report -
On the top 250 domestic grossing films:
- In 2010, women comprised 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working. This represents a decline of 1 percentage point from 1998 and is even with 2009 figures.
- Women comprised 7% of all directors
- Women accounted for 10% of writers
- Women accounted for 24% of all producers
- Women accounted for 18% of all editors
- Women comprised 2% of all cinematographers
- Women were most likely to work in the romantic comedy, documentary, and romantic drama genres. They were least likely to work in the horror, action, and comedy genres.
Why are these statistics shocking to me? Let's quote the LA Times: "A woman is more likely to hold a seat on a Fortune 500 company board (15%), serve as a member of the clergy (15%) or work as an aerospace engineer (10%) than she is to direct a Hollywood movie (7%)." I'd say that's a problem.
I do not believe for a moment that these statistics represent the interest, perseverance, or talent of women trying to work in the American film industry.
Oh, and as for those who believe that men are somehow inherently able to make more profitable movies?
On average, films employing at least one woman as director, executive producer, producer, or writer grossed approximately the same at domestic box offices ($82.1 vs. $81.9 million) as films with only men in these roles. (Study cited here)