: Kylee Peña's Blog
: The Easy Way to Solve Gender Imbalance in Film and Television
Each year, San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film releases a “Celluloid Ceiling” report
which shows female employment on the top 250 films of the previous year. This year’s numbers (released last week) are more of the same, with female employment hovering around the same percent for the last twenty years or so.
There’s something new in this year’s research we should all be looking at: how employment on shows varies when women are in charge.
Unlike previous years where data came from the top 250 films, this is based on the top 500
films — “top” meaning top grossing.)
On films with at least one female director, women comprised 32% of editors. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for 19% of editors.
Overall, women comprised 21% of editors for these 500 films. Having a woman in a leadership role makes the number of women involved with editing jump 68%.
If you were on the internet when Project Greenlight
aired last year, you probably saw the diversity-related spats between producer Effie Brown and actor Matt Damon. The show searches for first time filmmakers and goes through a selection process to give one of them the chance to make a movie. During a discussion of the finalists’ films by the producers, Brown (who is African-American) brings up concerns about racist tropes and suggests the producers think closely about how to choose a director that can treat a black character hovering on the edge between one-dimensional and fully realized with the proper dignity. Matt Damon doesn’t agree this is a concern.
“When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.”
Meaning Matt Damon doesn’t think the gender and ethnic make-up of the crew has any importance so long as you keep it mixed up on screen.
And one should only crew a show based on merit, leaving “all other factors out if it.”
Not to pick on any one dude (although with his Oscar nomination, I’m guessing Matt is doing just fine whether I blog about him or not) it’s important to realize that this is how most people think about hiring for film and television.
Gender and race is a distraction and should be ignored completely. Hollywood should be a meritocracy. The best people in creative and technical roles will automatically shuffle to the top of the pile.
If that were true, then there would be a more diverse selection of Oscar nominees. But yet again this year, all the actors and most of the “below the line” crew nominated are white. And among those, mostly male. I’ve written before
that equality is important when it comes to nominations — but #OscarsSoWhite doesn’t exist in the bubble of the Academy. It’s an accurate reflection of the current landscape of television and film. Most people in the industry think racial and gender blindness is the way to hiring the best people for the job, but this eliminates anyone who is outside their own circle. In other words, people hire people that look like them unless they’ve made an effort to seek out a more diverse applicant pool.
Maybe one day we’ll be able to fully separate our own bias from hiring and employment practices. Maybe someday people will stop assuming women aren’t interested in technology. Maybe someday companies will stop forcing women out of the pipeline by assuming they want either a family or a career and not both. Maybe someday people will stop thinking that women can only work on womens’ stories. Maybe someday people will stop thinking that womens’ stories are not mainstream, or that female protagonisists can’t engage an audience.
The easy way to solve these problems? Hire women. Make the consideration of women for roles you would normally fill quickly from referrals a priority. Give female hirees the resources and support they need. Listen to them.
Here’s your simple solution: hire women. We’ll sort out the rest.