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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

SDSU Study Finds Women Still Largely Underrepresented in Hollywood

The Celluloid Ceiling study looks at the employment of women on the top grossing films of 2017.

Press Release – SAN DIEGO, Calif. (January 11, 2018) — In 2017, one percent of top grossing films employed 10 or more women in key behind-the-scenes roles, while 70 percent of films employed 10 or more men, according to the 20th annual Celluloid Ceiling report released by Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

“The film industry has utterly failed to address the continuing under-employment of women behind the scenes. This negligence has produced a toxic culture that supported the recent sexual harassment scandals and truncates the careers of so many women,” said Lauzen.

Overall, women comprised only 18 percent of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2017. This is virtually the same percentage of women working in these roles 20 years ago (17 percent in 1998). By specific role, women accounted for 11 percent of writers, 19 percent of executive producers, 25 percent of producers, 16 percent of editors, and four percent of cinematographers.

Women made up 11 percent of directors in 2017, an increase of 4 percentage points from seven percent in 2016 but even with the level achieved in 2000. Lauzen notes that context is essential in interpreting these findings.

“2016 was a poor year for women’s employment as directors. Because fewer women directed films in 2016, it would not be surprising to see the percentage rebound in 2017 as a part of the normal fluctuation in these numbers,” said Lauzen.

This year’s study also considers the employment of women on the top 100 and 500 domestic grossing films. The analysis of the top 500 films reveals that features with at least one woman director employ higher percentages of women writers, editors, cinematographers, and composers than films with exclusively male directors. For example, on films with female directors, women comprised 68 percent of writers. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for 8 percent of writers.

The Celluloid Ceiling has tracked women’s employment on top grossing films for the last 20 years. It is the most comprehensive, continuous study of women’s behind-the-scenes employment in film available. This year’s study monitored 5,342 films. Since 1998, the study has tracked a total of more than 60,000 movies.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University is home to the most current and wide-ranging studies of women working on screen and behind the scenes in film and television.


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