Even the briefest scan of 2018 in film suggests that last year was a pretty fantastic year for female-centric narratives on screen. Just think of the kickass ladies of Widows, the raunchy lesbian love triangle of The Favourite, the way Debbie Ocean and her gang of criminals took over the Ocean’s franchise, and the coven of witchy ballerinas in the new Suspiria: 2018 didn’t disappoint when it came to movies starring (and about) complex women. But here’s the thing: all of the films mentioned above were directed by men. When you take a peek at the number of women who worked behind the camera in 2018—surprise surprise, not that many!—it’s a much more depressing story.
A new report from San Diego State University (via The Wrap) reveals just how bleak behind-the-scenes representation is for women in the industry. According to the annual study Celluloid Ceiling, women directed fewer films in 2018 than in 2017. Two years ago, 11 percent of the 250 highest-grossing movies were helmed by women, but in 2018 only eight percent were. Here’s another way to think of it: 92 percent of last year’s top films were directed by dudes.
While the number of women hired as writers, producers, executive producers, and editors has increased slightly since 2017—extreme emphasis on “slightly,” as in, like, one to five percent—the overall numbers are something Hollywood should be ashamed of. Out of last year’s biggest grossing-films, 73 percent had zero women writers, 74 percent had no female editors, and 96 percent had no women cinematographers. Is Hollywood full of Jason Blum clones who think female creatives just don’t exist? (Sadly, yes.)
Dr. Martha Lauzen, the executive director of SDSU’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, says such “radical underrepresentation” will only change if the industry as a whole commits to greater diversity efforts. “Without a large-scale effort mounted by the major players—the studios, talent agencies, guilds, and associations—we are unlikely to see meaningful change,” Lauzen said in a statement.
The SDSU study is full of some fascinating insights, and some positive news that employment for women in certain fields has improved somewhat over the past decade. You can read the full study here.