#OscarsSoMale? Lack of Female Nominees Highlights Another Industry Problem

Illustration By Daniel Downey

A year after catching flak for a glaring absence of racial diversity, the Academy nominated no females for best director or cinematography, with women constituting only 20 percent of all nonacting noms overall.

As hundreds of thousands of people swarmed through the streets of Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, and millions more took part in the Women's March across the country, one culprit in the war against women got away scot-free: Hollywood.

Well, almost. A solitary demonstrator was spotted hoisting a sign in downtown Los Angeles, urging "More Women Directors!" That may have drawn titters on Twitter, but her point was dead-on.

Where were the behind-the-scenes women in the Oscar noms this year? Whatever advances people of color made were not matched across gender lines. There wasn't a single female director nominee, and only one woman got nominated for writing — Hidden Figures' Allison Schroeder. And in the cinematography category, all the nominees were men, just as they have been every year since DPs started collecting Oscars.

A Women's Media Center analysis finds that women constituted only 20 percent of the nonacting nominations (37 out of 152 nominees). Women's best category? Documentary shorts, with 50 percent of the nominees.

After #OscarsSoWhite, is it time for #OscarsSoMale?

It would be wrong to say there wasn't some progress. Several women earned producing nominations: Adele Romanski and Dede Gardner (Moonlight), Donna Gigliotti and Jenno Topping (Hidden Figures), Kimberly Steward and Lauren Beck (Manchester by the Sea), Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn (Hell or High Water) and Angie Fielder (Lion). That's nine out of the 30 producers nominated by the Academy — a record. Still, that number needs an asterisk, given how many more nominees there were for best picture (nine) compared with a few years ago (when there were only five).

I wish I could say this imbalance comes as a surprise. But it was obvious as early as September that awards season wasn't looking good for women.

Each year, at the beginning of fall, when my colleagues and I start putting together THR's film roundtables, we look at the lay of the land. If the dearth of actors of color in Oscar contention was striking last year, the absence of women behind the camera was just as bad this year.

Among directors, Mira Nair (Queen of Katwe) was the only woman who had a slim chance of being nominated, even though seven years have passed since Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win a directing Oscar for The Hurt Locker. Among writers, Rebecca Miller (Maggie's Plan) and Schroeder (who co-wrote Hidden Figures with Theodore Melfi) were the only realistic contenders.

Both Schroeder and Nair joined the THR roundtables, along with Charlotte Bruus Christensen on the Cinematography Roundtable (Fences, The Girl on the Train) and Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson) on the Documentary Roundtable. Schroeder alone received a nomination.

Anecdotal evidence is backed up by statistics. Women made up a mere 7 percent of all directors on the top 250 box-office films of 2016. That's a 2 percent decline from 2015, according to San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, which compiles the figures annually.

Among those top box-office films, women made up 13 percent of the writers, 17 percent of the executive producers, 24 percent of the producers, 17 percent of the editors and 5 percent of the cinematographers.

They had 17 percent of all the key nonacting roles on those films, which again represented a drop of two points from 2015.

I don't blame the Academy for this. Too often, the organization gets bashed for problems created by the business at large. It's at the downstream end of a long river that springs up inside executive suites and flows all the way through the offices of presidents of production, development executives and physical production chiefs, then on past the producers and unit production managers who control each movie shoot, before ever reaching the Academy.

No single person in Hollywood can shoulder the blame for all this. But unless each individual accepts some of it, nothing will change.

Only when everyone takes responsibility will we finally be able to say goodbye to both #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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