For women, 'Celluloid Ceiling' is sagging


While women climbed Capitol Hill this past year, with Nancy Pelosi picking up the gavel in Congress, the women-in-power trend faded out of style in Hollywood. In her annual study of female employment in film and television, San Diego State University professor Martha Lauzen reveals that the entertainment industry is sliding backward.

Lauzen's 2007 study of women's involvement in last year's 250 top-grossing domestic films, "The Celluloid Ceiling," highlights the lack of progress. Women filled only 15% of all writing, executive producing, producing, directing, editing and cinematography roles, a drop from 2005's 17%. Lauzen attributes the decline to a similar shift in the nation as a whole.

"We have to note that the film and television industries are part of our larger culture; they don't exist in a vacuum," Lauzen says. "At least for the last six years, maybe a bit longer, we have been moving in a conservative direction in this country where issues like women's rights are not getting a lot of attention."

Female employment rates have decreased in almost all behind-the-scenes film positions. Women accounted for only 10% of all writers, 20% of producers (16% of executive producers), 7% of directors and 2% of cinematographers. The only increase was in the field of editing, where women held 21% of the positions.

"If we look back to 1998, they comprised 20% (of film editors), so you're talking about an increase of one percentage point. It's not a huge surge in the number of women editors; it's just a very slight rise," Lauzen notes.

Women are faring better in television. Lauzen's 2005-06 primetime TV study "Boxed In" indicates that women made up 24% of all creators, writers, directors, executive producers, producers, directors of photography and editors of drama, situation comedy and unscripted programs on network television.

"Traditionally, television has been more welcoming to women than film has, and it could be that film remains the higher-status field," Lauzen says. But the statistic indicates a percentage point decrease from the previous TV season.

In front of the camera, females comprised 40% of all TV roles. In its final year before merging with the WB Network to form the CW, UPN took the prize for the leading network employing women, both behind the scenes (35%) and in front of the camera (48%).

Lauzen believes it will take more than time to dramatically improve the numbers.

"If someone were to make it an issue, it would be part of people's consciousness," she says. "I think until that happens, we're not going to see much positive movement in the numbers."