It took more than 80 years for the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to award the Oscar for Best Director to a woman. But despite doing a bang-up job of busting through the glass ceiling in 2010 with “The Hurt Locker,” Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t able to bring the rest of Hollywood’s women with her.
Women accounted for just 7% of directors among the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2009, according to a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. This represents no improvement from the percentage in 1987. In addition, women comprised just 16% of all key behind-the-scenes jobs, including directors, producers and writers.
Melissa Silverstein, co-founder of the Athena Film Festival, told the Los Angeles Times that one reason for the disparity could be the free-for-hire system that studios use to staff their movies. “Directors, writers — they’re technically not employees of the movie studios,” she said, “so the studios keep no statistics.” And without statistics, she added, the problem goes unnoticed.
“I don’t think people know when they walk into a theater that nine out of 10 times they’ll see a film by a male director,” said Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center that conducted the study. “It’s not just an employment issue for women, it’s a cultural one for all of us. Movies make a difference in how we see the world and how we see certain groups of people. These are the architects of our culture.”