Why do Women find it more Difficult to get into the Film Industry?

Gender discrimination has led to women having trouble finding work in a specific field and is still a prominent issue that needs to be addressed. Recognising and fighting the inequality in film, we can increase the percentage of directors that are women from 8%, in 2018’s 250 US top-grossing films.

One way I will be exploring the reasons for aspiring female directors being excluded is through a survey that will be sent to a sample of people. The questionnaire will include asking about their own preferences of genre, gender of director, and if they believe that there is really a reason for discrimination when hiring for a crew members. From these results, I will compare the statistics I gather to past research from other organisations or individuals. My expectation from this survey is that most people will generally think there is an imbalance of gender representation in the film industry, towards men, but are not sexist themselves.

Although past research has been valuable to bring attention to the problem and share an understanding of the number of women affected, this paper takes a deeper look into why the situation remains the same, even though more people are aware. To find the answer, I aim to assess the difference of pressure that is felt by men and women; the consequences women face if they do speak up; and what individuals think the severity of the male-domination really is.

A study conducted in 2015 takes a look at what percentage of working film directors are female in the UK, concluding that, from 2008 to 2014, 11.3% had only risen to 11.9%. The most likely reason that is linked to this is the unconscious bias during hiring as. According to the same study, it’s not a factor of men in high positions in the industry purposefully turning away women who apply for important roles, but rather a preference without thought. A cycle is created from the majority of directors being male, therefore hiring a high percentage of men for their production, many of which will then go on to do the same.

To further support the belief that hiring inequality is usually done unconsciously, I have produced and distributed a survey to compile views a sample of people have on gender discrimination in the film industry. The answers for most questions were what I expected, especially as the majority believe around 70-90% of the film industry is dominated by men. However I was surprised by the answer of ‘3’ for this question, however I was told this was a result of misunderstanding shortly after. The graph below shows that, although most think of the industry as male-dominated, there are some who believe that to not be true, and in fact, see it as equal.

The most interesting data I received was that 52.9% of respondents knew that the director of their favourite film was male, while the rest (44.1%) didn’t know the gender, with the exception of 2.9% (1) identified their film’s director as female. From these statistics alone, at first glance I thought that it’s clear that women face severe lack of recognition, but is that really what’s going on in this instance? 

Looking through the list of movies everyone had put down as their favourite, I produced a tally of which gender each director was and the results are even more staggering than I expected. Out of the total 34 responses, 2 (5.9%) were not applicable, 28 (82.3%) were male and just 4 (11.8%) were female. This suggests that very few women are hired to direct high-budget films or those from a range of genres. Most of the movies that turned out to be directed by women were romantic comedies, implying that this is the type of material that they are presumed to create and therefore hired for, reflected by the response to ‘What genre do you think is the most popular with female directors?’:

These results have a possibility of being biased however, as the sample of respondents is quite small. To prevent this uncertainty, I would have made sure to distribute the survey to a larger amount of people through physically sending it to more people myself, posting it to a public survey site, or asking those who had completed it to pass it on. I asked the people who answered the survey for their gender to observe whether this could factor into possible bias, however, the distribution of male and female were nearly balanced. With male making up 44.1%, females 47.1% and 8.8% selecting ‘other’ or ‘prefer not to say’, I can rule out gender of the respondents as a cause of bias.

A few reasons why women are less likely to be hired for a large role have been discussed, but why is it that this has changed so little? People who experience sexism in the workplace are very unlikely to report it, for fear of how they will be affected. Director Rose McGowan was fired by her “wussy acting agent” after she spoke out on Twitter against all actresses being told to wear tight clothing and push-up bras to their audition for an Adam Sandler production.

This is just one example of how people of higher power deflect these demands for progression and scare women with similar experiences out of doing the same. However this doesn’t stop more women sharing encounters they had in the past. From this, people are increasingly aware of the inequality females face and now know this is not what they should expect from their employers. We can do more though, due to this issue still being so prominent, over 100 years after the first women’s rights movement. It should be compulsory that every business should have training on equal rights and implement strict consequences if employees or employers report cases against this. 

From the beliefs of survey respondents and comparing it to the 8% of film directors that are female, it’s apparent that, although a lot of people are aware of women’s inequality in the film industry and many other businesses, balance still needs to be secured. There is still a long way to go to achieve this, but the slowly growing recognition is an indication that we may get there.