The Women’s Media Center has released their annual report tracking the status of women in both entertainment and the news. We’re feeling more optimistic about the future of women in Hollywood than we have in a long time, given what we’ve called the recent gender quake in the film world. The ACLU has requested the government to conduct an investigation on discriminatory hiring practices in Hollywood, and directors, screenwriters, producers and actors — both male and female — are speaking out against gender inequality in the industry in unprecedented numbers with a newfound sense of candor.
And yet, the new report from the WMC is an important and painful reminder of how far we still have to go before anything resembling gender parity in the entertainment industry is achieved.
Let’s start from the top — the heavy hitters in Hollywood, studio senior management. These are the Hollywood elite, executives with serious clout. And they are, as Time points out, overwhelmingly white and male. This influential group is 92% white and 83% male.
A few months back, Keira Knightley asked, “Where are the female stories? Where are they? Where are the directors, where are the writers? It’s imbalanced, given that we are half the cinema-going public. We are half the people [who] watch drama or watch anything else." The numbers about who pulls the strings in Hollywood are reflected in which stories get told and who gets to tell them, both behind the scenes and onscreen. For example, lead roles are more than twice as likely to be played by white actors than actors of color, and, brace yourself, black people had no speaking parts in 17% of films. The erasure of black faces and the silencing of black voices are the norm. This likely has something to do with the fact that minority film writers are outnumbered by white film writers by 3 to 1.
Of the top 250 grossing movies of 2014, men accounted for 83% of the directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors.
“White men hold the power,” Darnell Hunt, Director of
UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, told the Women’s
Media Center. “They make decisions about what gets made and doesn’t get made.
They tend to make things that resonate with their experiences and their tastes,
and the appreciation of men they socialize with. Those tend to be projects that
focus on men and male culture.”
Women in the news industry are also woefully underrepresented. At The New York Times, for instance, more than 67% of bylines are male. Men report 65% of political stories and constitute the majority on editorial boards, which are, on average, made up of seven men and four women.
Founded in 2005 by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem, the WMC endeavors to "raise the visibility, viability and decision-making power of women and girls in media and, thereby, ensuring that the stories get told and their voices are heard." The 2015 installment of this report proves without doubt just how necessary the WMC and research of this kind are. As the forward to the report notes, "Overall its findings are clear: Media on all platforms are failing women."
Read "The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2015" from the WMC here.