ACLU Launches Petition on Gender Bias in Directing

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The organization started the petition to “continue the momentum for change."

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on people in Hollywood, via an email on Thursday, to sign a petition urging the government to investigate and monitor the industry's "biased hiring practices."

The ACLU is also hoping that key industry organizations will join them in circulating information about the petition, which is posted online.

"By signing it, industry professionals will tell three government civil rights agencies (1) that gender bias against women directors in film and television is real and has gone on for far too long and (2) investigation and oversight from civil rights enforcement agencies to foster reform of the industry’s biased hiring practices would be a welcome step," according to the email, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. "Our goal is to show the civil rights enforcement agencies that a significant number of people who are women directors or work with women directors want this long-running civil rights problem to be fixed."

The ACLU on May 12th asked three state and federal agencies — the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs — to take steps to end the gender disparities in the entertainment industry.

When contacted by THR earlier this week, representatives from the EEOC and the California DFEH said their agencies were reviewing the ACLU’s allegations. A spokesman for the the U.S. Department of Labor would only confirm that the agency had received ACLU’s request.

The ACLU letters to the government agencies included information from 50 women directors who were consulted for anecdotal evidence. The letters referenced entertainment studies that have found women directed less than 5 percent of top-grossing films in recent years and less than 15 percent of recent TV episodes.

Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBT, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California, said the petition was started to “continue the momentum for change and because many people in the industry have reached out asking what they can do to help the effort."

In recent days, a number of people in Hollywood, including Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, have spoken out in favor of the ACLU's effort. “Gender discrimination stigmatizes our entire industry," Bigelow said in a statement to "Change is essential. Gender-neutral hiring is essential.”

The ACLU noted online Thursday that despite a number of reports and headlines in recent years about gender disparity in the entertainment industry, "not much has changed."   

"Over the last year, the ACLU has heard directly from more than 50 women in the directing industry," the ACLU stated. "Their stories mirror the dismal numbers reported, but more importantly give ​voice to the discrimination they endure.

"We believe that the failure to hire women directors and give them a fair opportunity to succeed in the field is a civil rights issue. This is why the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and the ACLU of Southern California have a campaign demanding that our government launch an investigation into the systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and TV industry ​in violation of state and federal civil rights laws."