Study after study has shown women don’t appear to be getting a fair shake in Hollywood, and now the American Civil Liberties Union wants to do something about it.
The organization told the New York Times on Tuesday that it will ask state and federal agencies to investigate Hollywood studios, networks and talent agencies, and possibly charge them, over what the A.C.L.U. describes as rampant and intentional gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring female directors.
“Women directors aren’t working on an even playing field and aren’t getting a fair opportunity to succeed,” said Melissa Goodman, director of the L.G.B.T., Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the A.C.L.U. of Southern California. “Gender discrimination is illegal. And really Hollywood doesn’t get this free pass when it comes to civil rights and gender discrimination.”
The A.C.L.U. has detailed statistical and anecdotal evidence of systemic “overt sex stereotyping and implicit bias” in letters sent to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
“Real change is needed to address this entrenched and long-running problem of discrimination against women directors,” one of the letters reads. “External investigations and oversight by government entities tasked with enforcing civil rights laws is necessary to effectuate this change.”
Goodman has asked the government to take a look behind the scenes as to how studios make shortlists for directors — a Hollywood hiring process she says has “the least transparency.” Goodman wants investigators to look at employer records to determine who makes it onto the lists, and why, since numbers have shown women are far less likely to make the jump from directing an independent film to a studio picture.
Just last year, TheWrap found out of the entire crop of summer movies, only one was directed by a woman. 37 were directed by white men, and just two were directed by black men.
And the A.C.L.U. is pointing a finger at talent agencies, too.
The civil rights organization has collected statements from 50 female directors who report some form of discrimination in their Hollywood career, whether being told by executives that a show was not “woman friendly,” or learning producers told agents “not to send women” for certain jobs.
One female director who spoke to the Times anonymously said this: “Sometimes showrunners will say, ‘This isn’t a good show for a woman director, or our actors are hard on women.'” Or they’re approaching it as if ‘We’re protecting you by not giving you this job.’ That way they turn it on its side, to make everything OK.”
Even worse, the problem appears to extend far past directing gigs. A study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film shows that women made up only 17 percent of directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers who worked on the top 250 domestic grossing movies of the year.
“The findings drive home the point that men continue to construct the vast majority of the visual and aural worlds featured in U.S. films,” said Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at SDSU.
The same institute also found that there are fewer jobs for leading actresses available, since female characters made up just 12 percent of protagonists in the top 100 domestic-grossing films of 2014. This figure is three percent below 2013’s study and four percent below the number in 2002.
Helen Hunt, an Oscar-winning actress (“As Good as It Gets”) who has directed several TV episodes and two feature films, went on the record earlier this month to say women in Hollywood are “f–ked.”
“What are the great movies for younger women where they’re the protagonist [being] made now? You know what I mean? The whole thing — there’s no equal rights amendment. We’re fucked,” Hunt told the Huffington Post.
40 Actresses in Their 40s Who Are Still Conquering Hollywood (Photos)
Celebrate the leading ladies of Hollywood who are still killing it in their 40s.
Amy Adams (1974) Academy Award-nominated Amy Adams is best known for roles in Disney's "Enchanted" and "Arrival."
Kerry Washington (1977) Kerry Washington broke out in films like "Ray" and Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," but really came into her own on the small screen, picking up Emmy nominations for her work in Shonda Rhimes' "Scandal" and for playing Anita Hill in the HBO film "Confirmation." In 2020, she starred with Reese Witherspoon in "Little Fires Everywhere."
Zoe Saldana (1978) Zoe Saldana is best known for starring in the science fiction franchises "Avatar," "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Star Trek."
Reese Witherspoon (1976) A star since her teenage years, Witherspoon has expanded her profile with the Draper James fashion and home line as well as producing projects (that she often also acts in) such as "Wild" and HBO's "Big Little Lies."
Jennifer Hudson (1981) The "Dreamgirls" star became the 17th entertainer to earn the rare EGOT honor — Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony — in 2022 for producing the play "A Strange Loop."
Rose Byrne (1979) The Australian actress can do drama (the series "Damages") or comedy ("Bridesmaids," "Neighbors" and "Physical"). In 2020, she even played Gloria Steinem in the limited series "Mrs. America."
Angelina Jolie (1975) Academy Award-winning Angelina Jolie has starred in "Girl, Interrupted," "Maleficent" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." She has also written and directed several films, including "Unbroken" and "First They Killed My Father."
Eva Longoria (1975) Besides starring on "The Young and the Restless" and "Desperate Housewives," Eva Longoria launched her own production company, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, in 2016.
Penélope Cruz (1974) The Oscar-winning actress has graced screens in films such as "Belle Époque," "Sahara," and "Murder on the Orient Express." She received her fourth Oscar nomination for her role in 2021's "Parallel Mothers."
Jessica Alba (1981) As a Golden Globe nominated actress, Alba has tackled everything from "Fantastic Four" to "Sin City" to "LA's Finest."
Jessica Chastain (1977) Jessica Chastain, who won the Best Actress Oscar for "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" (and nabbed previous nominations for "Help" and "Zero Dark Thirty," made her film debut in 2008's "Jolene" and has gone on to star in "Miss Sloane," "Molly's Game" and "IT: Chapter Two."
Stephanie Beatriz (1981) Her debut as Detective Rosa Diaz in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" earned Beatriz the role of Carla in the hit musical film "In the Heights."
Charlize Theron (1975) From "Mad Max: Fury Road" to "Long Shot," this Academy Award-winning actress can do it all.
Natalie Portman (1981) The "V for Vendetta" star received an Academy Award for her performance in "Black Swan." She also starred as Jane Foster in "Thor" and "Thor: The Dark World," and hoists the hammer herself in "Thor: Love and Thunder."
Sutton Foster (1975) After winning two Tony awards for her work on the Broadway stage, Sutton Foster broke into Hollywood through her leading debut in "Younger."
Kate Hudson (1979) After her Golden Globe winning performance in "Almost Famous," the actress and Fabletics founder has starred in "Bride Wars," "Music" and Rian Johnson's "Glass Onion."
Alicia Silverstone (1976) The "Clueless" star has also starred in "Batman & Robin" and "Miss Match," along with publishing two vegan cookbooks.
Michelle Williams (1980) The "Dawson's Creek" actress has starred in "Brokeback Mountain," "The Greatest Showman" and "My Week with Marilyn." She's been nominated for four Oscars and won an Emmy for playing dancer Gwen Verdon in "Fosse/Verdon."
Bryce Dallas Howard (1981) Besides costarring in the massive "Jurassic World" films, she has also directed episodes of "The Manadalorian" and "The Book of Boba Fett." She is also making her directorial feature film debut with "The Flight of the Navigator."
Amy Schumer (1980) Comedian Amy Schumer is best known for her roles in "Trainwreck," "I Feel Pretty," and "Snatched," and co-hosting the 2022 Oscars.
Uzo Aduba (1981) Best known for her Emmy-winning role as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren on "Orange Is the New Black," Aduba also won an Emmy for playing Shirley Chisholm in "Mrs. America." SHe currently stars in the HBO drama "In Treatment."
Chrissy Metz (1980) For her role as Kate in "This Is Us," Chrissy Metz has earned nominations for two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy.
Carrie Coon (1981) Carrie Coon is best known for "Gone Girl," "The Leftovers," "The Gilded Age," and "Ghostbusters: Afterlife."
Isla Fisher (1976) The Australian actress, who broke out in "The Wedding Crashers," stars in and executive produces the Peacock series "Wolf Like Me."
Kirsten Dunst (1982) The star of "Bring It On," "Spider-Man" and several Sofia Coppola films was finally nominated for an Oscar for her performance in "The Power of the Dog." In 2016, she received an Emmy nomination for her role on "Fargo."
Kate Winslet (1975) The Oscar-winning "Titanic" star earned two Emmys (for the HBO mini-series "Mildred Pierece" and, more recently, for her her role as a dogged smalltown detective in 2021's "Mare of Easttown"). She's been nominated for seven Oscars.
Rebel Wilson (1980) The Australian actress is best known for "Pitch Perfect," "How to Be Single," and her leading roles in "Isn't It Romantic" and "Senior Year."
Constance Wu (1982) The star of "Crazy Rich Asians" and ABC's "Fresh Off the Boat" also starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in "Hustlers."
Tiffany Haddish (1979) The comedic star of "Girls Trip," "Tuca & Bertie" and "The Afterparty" has also proven herself adept at drama in films like Paul Schrader's "The Card Counter."
Christina Ricci (1980) The former child star who made her mark in the '90s with "The Addams Family" and "Now and Then" went on to costar in "Monster," "The Matrix Resurrections" and earned an Emmy nomination for her 2006 guest turn on "Grey's Anatomy." And she terrifies us, in the best way possible, as Misty on "Yellowjackets."
Melanie Lynskey (1977) Between "Yellowjackets" and "Candy," this New Zealand actress is killing it. It's about time the "Heavenly Creatures" star got the acclaim she deserves.
Rebecca Hall (1982) This British actress, who we loved in "The Town" and "The Night House" and topped critics' lists with her harrowing performance in 2016's "Christine," made her directorial debut in 2021 with the acclaimed period drama "Passing."
Ruth Negga (1982) The Ethiopian-born Irish actress was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and won an Independent Spirit Award for her role in "Loving," and received universal praise — and a BAFTA nomination — for her performance opposite Tessa Thompson in 2021's "Passing."
Keri Russell (1976) The former "Felicity" star made a very convincing spy on "The Americans," which earned her three Emmy nominations. She also costarred in the films "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.
Jenny Slate (1982) The actress co-created, wrote and produced the children's short film and book series "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On," which became an A24 feature film. She also charmed us in "Gifted" with Chris Evans and "I Want You Back," and won numerous critics awards for her lead role in 2014's "Obvious Child."
Natasha Lyonne (1979) The "American Pie" star scored a hit with the Netflix series "Russian Doll," which she co-created with Amy Poehler. She is also the showrunner.
Maggie Gyllenhaal (1977) After receiving a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for the 2009 film "Crazy Heart, in 2021 she made her directorial film debut with "The Lost Daughter," which earned Oscar nominations for her screenplay, as well as acting nods for stars Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley.
Rosario Dawson (1979) The actress who made her acting debut in the 1995 indie drama "Kids" has gone on to star in "Sin City" and five Marvel/Netflix series including "Daredevil." She's also set to star as Ahsoka Tano in the live-action Disney+ series, “Ahsoka.”
Natsha Rothwell (1980)
The actress, who plays Kelli on HBO's "Insecure" was also nominated as a supervising producer on the series. Her other TV shows include "The White Lotus" and "Archer."
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From Amy Adams to Reese Witherspoon, these actresses aren’t letting four-plus decades slow down their career
Celebrate the leading ladies of Hollywood who are still killing it in their 40s.