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New study shows Hollywood’s made zero progress representing women in film

A new report shows women are miserably underrepresented in film and it’s shockingly sexist.

The Hunger Games

Image: Lionsgate

The Media, Diversity, and Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a group reporting on issues of inequality in entertainment. The report is called Inequality in 700 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race, and LGBT Status from 2007 to 2014.

According to their website, “Our work is about bringing evidence and insight to media industries on where diversity is needed. I am in this to change the landscape of humanity, flanked by the next generation of world leaders: USC graduates and undergraduates,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Director of the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative.

The study examines the 700 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2014, looking at roles for women, non-Caucasian and LGBT characters as well as the number of female directors.

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Here are the key findings according to the “Inequality” report: 

1. Shocking gender gap

“Only 30.2 percent of the 30,835 speaking characters evaluated were female across the 700 top?grossing films from 2007 to 2014. This calculates to a gender ratio of 2.3 to 1. Only 11 percent of 700 films had gender?balanced casts or featured girls/women in roughly half (45?54.9 percent) of the speaking roles.”

Tina Desai

Image: 20th Century Fox

2. Number of female leads the same as in 2007, despite success of Bridesmaids

“A total of 21 of the 100 top films of 2014 featured a female lead or roughly equal colead. This is similar to the percentage in 2007 (20 percent), but a 7 percent decrease from the 2013 sample (28 percent).”

3. Hollywood celebrates youth culture

“In 2014, no female actors over 45 years of age performed a lead or colead role.”

4. Extremely small amount of ethnic female characters

“Only three of the female actors in lead or colead roles were from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds.”

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5. Zero homosexual female characters

“No female leads or coleads were lesbian or bisexual characters.”


Image: 20th Century Fox

6. Representation of women in animated films is not much better

“Less than a quarter of all speaking characters were female in the top animated films of 2014, which is a 7.4 percent decrease from 2010 but no change from 2007.”

7. Where are the women in action/adventure films?

“Only 21.8 percent of speaking characters in action/adventure films were female, which did not differ from 2010 or 2007.”


Image: 20th Century Fox

8. Comedies are looking a tad better

“34 percent of characters in 2014 comedies were female.”

9. Women are much more likely than men to be sexualized

“In 2014, females of all ages were more likely than males to be shown in sexy attire (27.9 percent of females vs. 8 percent of males), with some nudity (26.4 percent of females vs. 9.1 percent of males) and referenced as physically attractive (12.6 percent of females vs. 3.1 percent of males).”

10. Teen girls are equally as sexualized as adult women

“Examining patterns of sexualization by age in 2014 revealed that female teens (13- to 20-year-olds) were just as likely to be sexualized as young adult females (21- to 39-year-olds). Middle?aged females (40? to 64-year-olds) were less likely than these two groups to be sexualized.”

Ava DuVernay

Image: Paramount

11. Lousy stats on women behind the camera

“Across the 100 top films of 2014, only 15.8 percent of content creators working as directors, writers and producers were women. Women only accounted for 1.9 percent of directors, 11.2 percent of writers and 18.9 percent of producers. Put differently, only 2 women directed across the 100 top films of 2014. This is [no] different from 2013 (2 female directors across 100 top films) or 2007 (3 female directors across 100 top films). Twenty?eight women have worked as directors across the 700 top films from 2007 to 2014. Only 3 were African American.”

12. Female writers create more roles for women of all ages

“In the aggregate, films with at least 1 female screenwriter attached have more female characters and more women 40 to 64 years of age on-screen than films without a female screenwriter attached. Also, films with a female lead or colead were associated with more girls/women on-screen than those without a female lead or colead attached.”

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What do you think needs to change in Hollywood to close the gender gap? Let us know in the comments section below.

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