Gender Inequality in The Film Industry
Gender inequality has plagued Western society since long before our modern-day governments and social movements had been conceived. In 1850, Iceland became the first nation to pass laws guaranteeing unconditional equal inheritance rights for women. In 1881, France granted women the rights to own bank accounts independently of their husbands, the US and UK would not follow suit until 1960 and 1975, respectively. The suffragette movement of the early 20th century finally saw laws passed in 1918 and 1928 which granted voting rights to women. But since then, equality in employment has been an upward struggle for women to gain equality on pay, leave, and conditions.
The film industry is no stranger to gender inequality, as a study by the European Women’s Audio-visual Network highlighted. The study, conducted across seven European nations, found that even thought female directors accounted for 44% of film school graduates, they only make up 24% of directors in the industry’s workforce. In addition, only one in five films produced across these seven countries was directed by a woman, and a huge majority (84%) of public funding available for filmmakers went to films directed by men. Only a single female director has ever won the Palme d’Or, the top film prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and only two women have ever won Best Director. In 2021, Chloe Zhao became the second woman ever to win Best Director at the Academy Awards.
Data collected for a different study reported by the BBC analysed gender data from over 2000 industry workers across 243 films, finding that the vast majority (89%) of winning feature films over 10 major film festivals have more men in their senior roles, both acting and non-acting. Only 15 films had more women and 11 had an equal number of men and women, accounting for 6% and 5% respectively. No films whatsoever had a female-only leading line up, yet 15 were exclusively male. When averaged, nearly ¾ of all leading cast and crew roles go to men (74%). In non-acting roles this gap widens to 82% men to 18% women. It was also noted that the most common scenario is for a film to contain a single female lead – the “token woman”.
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