Women in Entertainment See Slow Gains, Research Finds

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Over the last 15 years, fewer than one in five directors, writers or producers have been women.

Women continue to make slow strides toward bridging the gender gap in film and television, according to the latest roundup of studies on the subject.

The fifth annual Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California, released March 30 by Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, is a summary of gender-based research in key categories, including education, health and politics.

In the Film and Television section, the report noted that female characters continue to be underemployed compared to their real-life counterparts (23 percent of the cinematic workforce is female, compared to 46 percent of the nation in reality).  

On the other hand, female characters dominate when it comes to a certain type of physical exposure: Women were nearly three times as likely as men to appear partially or fully nude in the 100 highest-grossing films of 2014.

The report also presented the latest figures on women working behind the camera. Although there has been a gradual uptick in these jobs, fewer than one in five directors, writers or producers have been women over the last 15 years. A study of the most popular films in 11 countries commissioned by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which operates out of Mount Saint Mary's, found that 7 percent of women served as directors, 19.7 percent as writers and 22.7 percent as producers.

How can the industry move toward gender parity? The report finds that projects with women in charge tend to hire more women.

“When men solely occupy director and producer roles, 7-15% of projects have women writers, editors and directors," the report stated. "In comparison, when one or more women occupy these same roles, 52% of directors hire female writers and 35% hire female editors; with women producers, over 20% of projects have women writers, directors and producers.” This trend holds for television as well, with the ratio of female employment jumping from 6-15% to 15-50% when female executive producers or show creators are involved.