There was a 22 percent decline in the number of top-grossing 2016 movies directed by women — a glaring fact that shows Hollywood continues to be resistant to change despite a groundswell of support for more gender equity in the industry.
Only 7 percent of directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films last year were women, down from 9 percent in 2015, according to the 19th annual Celluloid Ceiling report by Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. (While the difference is just 2 percentage points year over year, the drop in raw numbers is a more alarming 22 percent.)
Those films included Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster” ($41 million domestic gross), Patricia Riggen’s “Miracles From Heaven” ($62 million) and Thea Sharrock’s “Me Before You” ($56 million).
“The findings indicate that women who direct films actually lost ground in 2016,” Center director Dr. Martha Lauzen said in a statement. “The current small-scale remedies for women’s under-employment, while they may be well-intentioned and benefit a handful or individuals, are ineffective in addressing this issue. The efforts, such as mentoring and shadowing programs, are simply too meager to create the kind of shift that is needed.”
The 2016 figure also means that the industry dropped 2 percentage points below the level achieved in 1998.
In other off-camera roles, women accounted for 13 percent of writers, 17 percent of executive producers, 24 percent of producers, 17 percent of editors and 5 percent of cinematographers.
Overall, women comprised 17 percent of all the off-camera filmmaking roles considered in the study. Once again, this represents a decrease of 2 percentage points from 2015 and remains even with the figure obtained in 1998.
“Women working in key behind-the-scenes roles have yet to benefit from the current dialogue regarding diversity and inclusion in the film industry,” added Lauzen.
The percentage of female cinematographers increased slightly in 2016, while writer and producer percentages remained the same. However, 58 percent of films in 2016 had no female executive producers. Also, female EPs experienced a 3 percent decline year over year.
The study also revealed that movies with at least one female director employ higher percentages of female writers, editors, and cinematographers than films with exclusively male directors.
When the study analyzed the top 100 domestic films, only 4 percent of films had female directors (representing a 3 percent decline from last year).
The Celluloid Ceiling is the longest-running and most comprehensive study of women’s behind-the-scenes employment in film available.
It still remains to be seen whether Hollywood will budge on improving these figures for the next generation of female filmmakers.