In May, the ACLU asked state and federal governments to investigate the hiring practices that leave women with only a minuscule fraction of directing jobs. Now the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking them up on it: According to Deadline, the EEOC will start interviewing female directors next week about the discrimination they’ve faced. The interviews could lead to a government-led class-action lawsuit against the entertainment industry, where men directed all but two of the top 100 films of 2014 and women make up only 18 percent of first-time TV directors.
This isn’t the first time the EEOC — which is tasked with preventing discrimination on the basis of gender, race, age, and disability — has investigated Hollywood. In 1969, the agency concluded that the industry systemically discriminated against women and minorities, but it lacked the regulatory teeth at the time to do much about it. As recently as 2013, the EEOC told director Marie Giese that it could only combat Hollywood’s gender gap on the level of individual lawsuits from women who had been wronged, which she said was impossible: “No woman would risk her career by filing a lawsuit because she would be blacklisted.” Now Giese credits the ACLU with selling the commission on the class-action approach. “I hope this will be the spearhead to create equality for every woman in our industry,” she said, “and for every woman in every industry in America.”
It’s worth noting, however, that the EEOC’s investigation only pertains to female directors. In other professions, the gender gap is equally large: In the top 100 films of 2014, women made up only 11 percent of writers and 19 percent of producers, while female DPs make up only 4 percent of the membership of the American Society of Cinematographers.