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Women In The Film Industry Are On The Rise, Despite Vast Gender Gap

Elizabeth Cutbirth |
August 8, 2013 | 6:15 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Kathryn Bigelow at the 2010 Oscars (Wikimedia).
Kathryn Bigelow at the 2010 Oscars (Wikimedia).

Women have been struggling for over one hundred years to break through the celluloid ceiling in the film and TV industry as producers, directors, screenwriters, editors, animators, cinematographers, actresses, critics, film professors, and more. Thanks to their struggle, there is a long list of leading women behind and in front of the cameras.
Top female producers in the film industry include film legend Kathleen Kennedy, ("Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Jurassic Park," and "Lincoln"), Nina Jacobson ("The Hunger Games"), Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), Karen Rosenfelt, ("Twilight" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" film franchises), Megan Ellison ("True Grit"), Drew Barrymore ("Charlie’s Angels" and "Fever Pitch"), and Diablo Cody ("Juno" and "Jennifer’s Body").
Many of these female powerhouses have also directed, written, and acted in the films they have produced such as Tina Fey, who has a large body of work with "Saturday Night Live," "30 Rock," and feature films. Lena Dunham is another example, as she is the writer, director, and actor for her popular, award-winning HBO TV series "Girls."
It is difficult to judge the best actresses from the long lists of talent. However, if one is to judge based on awards and nominations, then Meryl Streep, Kate Winslett, Helen Mirren, Marion Cotillard, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Hillary Swank, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Lawrence, and Anne Hathaway remain beloved by both critics and audiences. 
Even though these female stars captivate audiences, there is great disparity between the percentages of men and women who are represented in front of the camera.
According to a recent study from the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, "Females are grossly underrepresented on screen in 2012 films. Out of 4,475 speaking characters on screen, only 28.4% are female. This translates into a ratio of 2.51 males to every 1 female on screen."
Leading female directors who have gained popularity with their work include Kathryn Bigelow (The first and only woman to have won an academy award for best director for her film "The Hurt Locker"), Jane Campion ("The Piano"), Catherine Hardwicke ("Twilight"), Mira Nair, Salaam Bombay!, Amy Heckerling ("Clueless"), and Julie Taymor are just a few. 
Many women have gained leading positions in the film industry, but women still have not gained equal footing due to the gender barriers and financial barriers they face.
According to The Women’s Media Center report "The Status of Women in the United States Media 2013," “Women comprised 9 percent of directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2012.  That’s up 4 percent from 2011, but flat when taking into account historical data going back to 1998." 
“In other key behind-the-scenes roles, women comprised 18 percent, which was the same finding in 2011 — and just a 1 percent increase since 1998.” 
The percentage of women filmmakers has not risen significantly over the past years. Center Executive Director Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., said in a January 11, 2013, story in The New York Times, “The numbers for women filmmakers have been remarkably stable and reflect that this is an entrenched industry.” 
If creating top-grossing films or winning prestigious awards, historically dominated by men, are measurements of success, then women still have a long way to go because only one woman has ever won the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the esteemed Cannes Film Festival, and only one woman has ever won Best Director at the Academy Awards.
Women have made great strides as directors, screenwriters, actresses and more, but the statistics show that their is still a great gender divide in the film industry. 
Reach Staff Reporter Elizabeth Cutbirth here.


 

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