At This Rate, Women’s Presence In Hollywood May Soon Be Nonexistent
It’s a man’s man’s man’s world. At least in Hollywood.
Current conversations on women in “the industry” are getting a lot of attention at the moment, and here’s why. A newly published study of 100 of the top films produced in 2014, “It’s A Man’s (Celluloid) World” done by Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., indicates that there has been a drop in the already small percentage of representation of women in the entertainment industry both on-screen and off. These are the most scandalous of the findings as reported in Lauzen’s study:
According to the findings:
• Only 12% of all clearly identifiable protagonists were female in 2014. This represents a decrease of 3 percentage points from 2013 and a decrease of 4 percentage points from 2002. In 2014, 75% of protagonists were male, and 13% were male/female ensembles. For the purposes of this study, protagonists are the characters from whose perspective the story is told.
• Male characters were more likely than females to be identified only by a work-related role, such as doctor or business executive (61% of males vs. 34% of females). In contrast, female characters were more likely than males to be identified only by a personal life-related role such as wife or mother (58% of females vs. 31% of males). Male and female characters were equally likely to be identified in dual work-related and personal life-related roles (8% of females and males).
• Overall, 13% of characters were leaders. For the purposes of this study, leaders were those individuals occupying a formal leadership position in an organization, government or group and whose instructions and/or behaviors were followed by two or more other characters. Of those characters, a larger proportion of male characters (16%) than female characters (5%) were portrayed as leaders.
• In films with at least one woman director and/or writer, females comprised 37% of all speaking characters. In films with exclusively male directors and writers, females accounted for 28% of all speaking characters.
• In films with at least one woman director and/or writer, females comprised 39% of protagonists, males 35% of protagonists, and male/female ensembles 26% of protagonists. In films with exclusively male directors and writers, females accounted for 4% of protagonists, males 87% of protagonists, and male/female ensembles 9% of protagonists.
• A higher proportion of male than female characters had an identifiable occupational status. 85% of male characters but only 75% of female characters had an identifiable job/occupation.
• A substantially larger portion of male than female characters were seen in their work setting actually working (59% vs. 41%).
This news should be particularly disturbing once we hear that, according to a study on 2012 MPAA Global Movie Going Statistics, 18% of film goers, 15 million people, were between the ages of 12-24. One can’t help but be concerned as to what they could possibly be taking away from that.
This all seems especially timely in light of President Obama’s comments on Equal Pay in his 2014 State of the Union Address when he said, “A woman deserves equal pay for equal work…It’s time to do away with workplace policies in a Mad Men episode.” According to the Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor, the ration of women’s earnings to men’s has only risen by 16.7 percent since 1980 from 64.2% to 80.9% average women’s pay compared to men’s in 2012.
And there’s always the oft discussed fact that the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world without federally mandated paid maternity leave.
The 2010 Census told us a lot about how the U.S. Labor Force has changed since 1940. According to the Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor, the percentage of women in every major occupation has jumped drastically since just 1985, the peak of the Women’s Liberation Movement. For instance in the 25 years since 1985 we have seen a jump in women lawyers by more than 30%, women chemists by 20%, and women architects by 10%. As of 2010, 80% of Social Workers, 70% percent of Medical and Health Managers, and over 60% of Accountants and Auditors in the labor force were women.
If numbers in the real world seem to be indicative of a powerful increase of women in the workforce, how is Hollywood getting things so backwards?
Since it has sparked such a vigorous discussion in the online sphere, hopefully this is a sign that it has been a rude awakening for many who might think that there is no more need for feminism or women have obtained a completely equal footing in the U.S. Is it enough that the entertainment industry is receiving a public shaming via online news sources and publications? Will they listen?
Here is hoping that 2015-2016 shows a significant change in the representation of women in the film industry, both on and off. Even if it is left up to the independent film world and the few brave souls who dare to take on this challenge.