Women Less Than One Third of Speaking Roles in Top Films, New Study Finds – Again

And less than a third of top 100 films featured women as a lead

There has been plenty of talk about diversity in Hollywood — but little action — as women still only make up less than one third of speaking roles in all films according to a new study.

Titled “Inequality in 800 Films,” the report by Professor Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism examined the 100 top-grossing films from 2015 and 4,370 speaking characters for gender, racial/ethnic representation, and LGBT status.

The study found that 68.6 percent of named characters were still male, and only 31.4 percent female across the 100 top‐grossing films of 2015 (making a gender ratio of 2.2 male characters to every female). This figure has not changed since 2007.

In addition, females were over three times as likely as their male counterparts to be shown in sexually revealing clothing (30.2 percent vs. 7.7 percent) and with some nudity (29 percent vs. 9.5 percent).

“The findings reveal that Hollywood is an epicenter of cultural inequality,” Dr. Smith said in the report. “While the voices calling for change have escalated in number and volume, there is little evidence that this has transformed the movies that we see and the people hired to create them. Our reports demonstrate that the problems are pervasive and systemic.

“Despite the advocacy surrounding female directors [such as Ava DuVernay, pictured above] film is a representational wasteland for women of color in this key role,” she continued. “Advocates need to ensure that their work reflects the barriers facing all women, not just a select few.”

The #OscarsSoWhite campaign has focused the spotlight on race in Hollywood, but characters from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups only made up 26.3 percent of all characters in 2015.

Meanwhile, the report states that LGBT-identified characters represented less than 1 percent of all speaking characters and characters with disabilities only make up 2.4 percent of all speaking roles.

See key points from the study below and read the full report here.

  • Out of 4,370 speaking or named characters evaluated, 68.6 percent were male and 31.4 percent were female across the 100 top-grossing films of 2015.
  • Of the 100 top films of 2015, 32 percent depicted a female as the lead or co lead of the unfolding narrative (an 11 percent increase from last year).
  • Five of these films portrayed female leads/co leads 45 years of age or older at the time of theatrical release in 2015, compared to 26 movies with featured leads or co leads of males 45 years of age or older.
  • Females were over three times as likely as their male counterparts to be shown in sexually revealing clothing (30.2 percent vs. 7.7 percent) and with some nudity (29 percent vs. 9.5 percent).
  • Female teens (42.9 percent) and young adults (38.7 percent) were more likely than middle-aged females (24.7 percent) to be shown in sexualized attire. A similar pattern emerged for nudity (41.2 percent, 36.9 percent, and 24.4 percent, respectively).
  • Of the 1,365 directors, writers, and producers of the 100 top-grossing films of 2015, 81 percent were men and 19 percent were women. Of 107 directors, 92.5 percent were male and 7.5 percent were female.
  • Only 1 female composer but 113 male composers worked across the sample of 100 movies of 2015.
  • In 2015, 73.7 percent of characters were White, 12.2 percent Black, 5.3 percent Latino, 3.9 percent Asian, <1 percent Middle Eastern, <1 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native, <1 percent Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 3.6 percent Other or “mixed race.” Together, a total of 26.3 percent of all speaking characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. This marked no change since 2007.
  • Only 14 of the movies depicted an underrepresented lead or co lead, and none were played by an Asian actor.
  • Only three female leads/co leads were played by female actors from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group (the same as in 2014).
  • Only 32 speaking or named characters were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender across the sample of 100 top films of 2015, with only one transgender character.
  • Only 2.4 percent of all speaking or named characters were shown with a disability.