Hollywood’s Gender Problem, The Women Changing The Game

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay at an event hosted by Vanity Fair. Via Flickr. Unlicensed.

Not-so-breaking news: Hollywood has a woman problem.

Whether it’s behind the scenes or in front of the camera, the underrepresentation of women in Hollywood still persists in 2015. The Women’s Media Center released a study “The Study of Women in the U.S. Media 2015” today, and the statistics are staggering.

  • Of all the on-screen protagonists in films in 2014 only 12 percent of them were female characters
  • Only 17 percent of all Hollywood executives are women
  • In 2014, women employed 17 percent of all behind-the-scenes roles

The statistics fare worse for women of color. According to the Representation Project, only six of the top 500 box office hits featured a woman of color protagonist – and five of the six were animated films. And frustratingly, the only film with a female director of color on the list was “Kung Fu Panda 2,” a film I had no idea existed.

But despite these depressing statistics, I’d like to end this post on a happier note by highlighting some of influential women in the film world today.

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay on the set of “Selma” (2015). Via Google/CC. Unlicensed.

Yeah, I’m still mad DuVernay wasn’t nominated for her outstanding work in “Selma.” But considering she’s relatively new in the mainstream film world, I’m still hopeful that she’ll get the recognition she deserves. After seeing her directorial talent in “Selma,” I watched two other features she’s directed, “I Will Follow” and “Middle of Nowhere,” which were fantastic. For the latter, she won Best Director at the 2012 Sundance Festival, making her the first African-American woman to win the award.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kennedy in an interview about the new “Star Wars” installment “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” releasing later this year.

Kennedy may not be a household name, but she’s helped produce some of the most highest-grossing pictures of all time. She’s helped produce classic blockbusters like the “Jurassic Park” and “Indiana Jones” franchises as well as Best Picture nominees like “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Lincoln” (2012). In 2013, Kennedy was named the new president of Lucasfilms and is now producing the new “Star Wars” franchise. Also, to any women out there with film producing aspirations, her net worth is $150 million. Get that paper, girl.

Jenji Kohan

Kohan at a screening for “Orange is the New Black” (2013). Via Flickr. Unlicensed.

Okay, she may not technically be a figure in the film world, but Kohan’s work in expanding roles for women on television is revolutionary. The show runner for “Orange is the New Black” created the female-driven show to represent the complexity of women and to prove a mostly-female cast can succeed in the television world. The show also features a wide array of women of color, one of the most underrepresented groups in media.



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