Sexist Hollywood?: Women Still Struggle to Find Film Jobs, Study Finds

A new report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film shows the number of women directors fluctuated upward in 2012

Women remain underrepresented in Hollywood as the percentage of female filmmakers stagnated last year, according to a new study.

Getty ImagesIn 2012, women represented just 18 percent of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University titled "The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2012."

That number remained the same as in 2011, and has increased just 1 percentage point since 1998.

Also read: Women Are on the Rise at Sundance – When Will Studios Take Note?

"This is a very complex issue," Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the center, told TheWrap. "There are, I think, lots of factors at work that are keeping these numbers at about 17 to 18 percent."

Among the study's other findings:

>> Women accounted for 15 percent of writers working on the top 250 films of 2012. Seventy-eight percent of the films had no female writers.

>> Women make up 17 percent of all executive producers working on the top 250 films of 2012.  Sixty-one percent of the films had no female executive producers.

>> Women accounted for 25 percent of all producers working on the top 250 films of 2012. Thirty-two percent of the films had no female producers.

The flatlining has remained stubbornly intransigent despite a few high-profile advances. Kathryn Bigelow, for instance, became the first female to win the Best Director Oscar in 2009 for "The Hurt Locker" and was back this year with the Oscar-nominated war drama "Zero Dark Thirty." But Bigelow and other high-profile female directors like Sofia Coppola and Lisa Cholodenko are the exceptions.

The number of women directors increased 4 percent from 2011, but that number has fluctuated over the years, said Lauzen, who has conducted the study for more than a decade.

Also read: Celluloid Ceiling: Women Comprised Only 5% of Directors in 2011

"What you'll see is the percentage of directors who happen to be women have been bouncing around between 5 percent and 9 percent," she said. "There isn't any clear indication that we are in the midst of a long-term upward trend."

On the indie front, the glass ceiling female filmmakers face is showing more cracks. As TheWrap's Sharon Waxman noted this weekend, for the first time in its history, the Sundance Film Festival has an equal number of women as men directors in competition this year.

Moreover, women have made big strides when it comes to sliding behind the camera on lower-budget projects, according to a new study commissioned by the Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles. The report found that women directed 24 percent of the films at Sundance between 2002 and 2012. That number shrinks substantially when it comes to big studio productions. Women directed just 4.4 percent of the top 100 films at the box office from 2002 to 2012, the report found.

Lauzen said she believes the gender gap in Hollywood is firmly entrenched but hopes that  building awareness can improve the disparity.

"Awareness would be key, and there needs to be some recognition that it's problematic," she said. "There would need to be some kind of recognition that when you have 89 percent of your films directed by men that you're getting a certain perspective not he world. And that's kind of a narrow perspective."

She said an "external intervention" would be needed to change Hollywood in any significant way now.

"I think any sustained and significant change will have to come from some kind of external intervention," Lauzen said. "I do have to say, since I've been doing this study for over a decade, the film industry does appear to be quite entrenched.

"I don't think the industry will change on its own," she said.