Feminism in the Film Industry


Paris Blanco

By Paris Blanco

Since its foundation in 1944, only five women have been nominated for the Golden Globes’ best director title. In 1984, Barbara Streisand, for Yentl, became the first and only woman to actually receive the award. 

The same goes for the Academy Awards: in its 92 year history, only five women have been nominated for best director. Once again, in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker, was the first and only woman to receive this award. 

These events are not a mere coincidence. The underrepresentation of women in film (especially those behind the camera) is a problem that has plagued the film industry for much of its history. 

Within the film industry, women are mistreated through the lack of opportunity created by bias. A research study published by the Sundance Institute in 2015 stated that “movies with a woman director (70.2%) were more likely than movies with a male director (56.9%) to be distributed by independent companies with fewer financial resources and lower industry clout.” On the other hand, “male-directed films (43.1%) were more likely than women-directed films (29.8%) to receive distribution from a studio specialty/mini major company.” 

There is no concrete evidence pointing towards the fact that any one gender is better at creating films. The speculation that tries to prove otherwise is only fueled by bias, unconscious or not. The truth is, the equal opportunity needed to prove themselves is not given to women.

It is important that within any artform that the medium’s representation is equal. Without diverse female voices, film will never accurately depict the variety of life. 

The only people suitable to write stories of women accurately are women themselves. Just like male writers are ideal when crafting stories about men, women would bring an irreplaceable perspective to stories of their own experiences. 

As media becomes increasingly popular within society, it is evermore important that film accurately represents the population that it caters to. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television, “In 2016, 7% of films were directed by women (down from 9% in 2015). In other roles, women comprised 13% of writers, 17% of executive producers, 24% of producers, 17% of editors, and 5% of cinematographers.” However, this is despite the fact that women make up half of the population. 

Additionally, fair and positive representation provides the population with inspiration that is relatable. Especially with children, it makes a big difference to feel properly represented through their on-screen role models. 

How can we expect to constantly consume media, when the media itself does not reflect its consumers? Due to this, film turns into a one way street where the media holds a tight rein on society. 

The most definitive way to solve this problem is within the industry itself, not the abilities of the people who create films. This way, excuses cannot be made for underrepresentation in film. For instance, all production companies should be required to employ at least a 50% female crew when producing films. The most plausible way for this to happen is to provide incentive or approval to companies that meet the requirements. All in all, standards and policies that promote equity and equality need to be incorporated into the film industry in order to create substantial change. 

The bar graph above demonstrates the percentage of female film directors over the past 13 years. Although on a slight increase, the highest percentage is 10.6% in 2019.