Most Top-Grossing Women Directors Made Only One Movie in the Last Decade, Research Finds

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Photo: OWN

You don’t need science to glean the obvious truth about equity in directing: White men make more movies than anyone else. But when USC crunched the numbers, female directors working in Hollywood are even more rare than you might think. Not only do women in the industry make fewer top-grossing movies, but many only helmed one big feature in the last decade. According to an analysis of race, gender, age, and equity across 1,000 films released between 2007 and 2016, the majority of women spearheading these productions are from a narrow pipeline, and they rarely released more than one film in the nine years analyzed. Even though many of the names are recognizable — Angelina Jolie, Nora Ephron, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Ava DuVernay — the study’s data showed that there were only 35 unique female feature-film directors who made a movie that made a lot of money. This isn’t a talent problem, but a pipeline problem: White men of all ages release big features, while the study found women directors were all in a narrower age range, between their 30s and 60s. For women of color, the breakdown of opportunity is even more stark: “Across the 10‐year sample, it is important to note that only three of the female directors were black (i.e., Ava DuVernay, Gina Prince‐Bythewood, Sanaa Hamri), and two were Asian (i.e., Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Loveleen Tandan). Though ethnicity was not evaluated in this report, there was only one Latina (i.e., Patricia Riggen).” Just in case you’re not a big studio executive in charge of hiring directors, paying to see shorts, indies, and big feature films directed by women is a good place to start tackling this disparity.

Study: Women Directors Get Fewer Opportunities