Women in Entertainment & Media: Behind the Scenes

Corporate Hollywood is a competitive business with multiple positions involved in the process of film-making; directing, producing, marketing, sales, management. It accounts for a huge amount of business in America but less so in other countries. Still, like any industry, it should not involve bias against gender. However, there is a huge lack of women that are represented behind the screen in media and entertainment, with lower percentages than in front of the screen.

It is shown that films and television made by women is more likely to include females in its storyline; there is a 10.6% increase of women on screen with a female directing, and an 8.7% increase with a female screen writer. With half of movie ticket buyers being women, consumers are wishing to endorse a gender neutrality in the work that is put in behind the scenes.

Let’s look at some figures. Overall, women are more likely to direct documentaries (34.5%) than bigger ticket narrative films (16.9%), making their success far more less known than male producers and directors of box office hits and lowering their potential of profits. Overall, there is a 5:1 ratio of men to women working on films. The following graph displays the percentage of male to female workers in different roles in the industry based on the top 500 movies of 2012:

Credit: New York Film School Blog

As you can see, production have the highest percentage of females, but it is important to note that this is around 10% higher than executive producers, identifying a decrease of women in positions of power as the ranks rise. None of these sectors are made up of over a quarter of women; there are at least three times the amount, if not more, of men in these positions than women. Cinematography takes the cake with a measly 2% of workers being female. Numbers are not correlating with students in school. Half of film graduates are women, so why aren’t these positions filled evenly with both genders? One can only put it down to industry bias.

Hollywood is often described as a “man’s club”, a business employing males that women are obviously, based on comparing the number of graduates to women in paid film roles, finding it extremely difficult to break into. Similarly to acting, these roles do not require any attributes or skills that can only be found in males. There are no excuses. The Centre for Women in Television and Film are back to sadden us with their findings for 2016.

“In 2016, women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 2 percentage points from last year and is even with the percentage achieved in 1998.”

Let’s just let that sink in for a while. 1998. Almost two decades have passed and yet this number has not budged in our ‘progressive’ society. Hollywood’s industry is lagging behind somewhere in the midst of gender discrimination in the previous century.

A common held view is that women are only going to come in and make films about women, no matter how many men produce films about women that displays either gender can do both, or no matter how many female authors publish books with a central male character. J.K Rowling was urged to use initials instead of ‘Joanne’ on the cover of Harry Potter so as not to impact sales to young male readers. Apparently, males can sell stories about men or women as they please, but women cannot.

Additionally, females in roles behind the camera are indeed creating movies starring women, for women, because that is what is needed in response to the shocking state of the industry. If we don’t create these movies about independent women and thus create film jobs for women, no one will. Drew Barrymore started her own production company Flower Films which has worked on some pretty big ticket films. Lena Dunham wrote and produced a television series with four women in the main cast that was probably the highest amount of vaginas in a room that Hollywood has seen in a while. There’s some kick-ass women out there doing some great things in film. With these appalling statistics comes a silver lining; it really is only up from here.


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