There Are Fewer Lead Roles for Women in Hollywood: Study

In 21st-century mainstream Hollywood, gender and race inequality are still alive and well — and not necessarily improving. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at SDSU has released a study that found women comprised 12 percent of the lead roles in 2014’s top-grossing films, according to Variety. The figure is down three percentage points from 2013; the report analyzed 2,300 characters in last year’s 100 highest-grossing domestic flicks for this recent batch of data. Female characters were featured more frequently in supportive roles, according to the New York Times, whereas men took on more dangerous parts. Despite recent women-led films, such as Gone Girl, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, Martha M. Lauzen, the center’s executive director, stressed that the movie industry is still seeing an under-representation of girls and women in major roles on the big screen.

“There is a growing disconnect or gap between what we might perceive as being the current status of women in film and their actual status,” Lauzen told Variety. “A few high profile cases can skew our thinking.” In terms of secondary roles, women played 29 percent of major characters and 30 percent of speaking characters. In general, most women (58 percent) took on more personal roles, such as wife or mother.

The study also discovered that 75 percent of female characters were white, while the number of black and Latina characters decreased, compared to last year’s research. (Asian female characters reportedly rose one percent.) “People tend to create what they know, and having lived their lives as females, women tend to be drawn to female characters,” Lauzen told Variety, alluding to an earlier report about the difference it makes when women are working behind the camera. “We need to have greater diversity behind the scenes if this is going to change.”

There Are Fewer Lead Roles for Women: Study