The screens were big. The stars were glamorous. The stories were outrageous. My childhood was a place where frogs could talk and sing, pixie dust could solve most any problem (including gravity) and if I could dream it, then I could do it. Before it was hip to instill self-esteem, my parents were leading the charge.
From an early age, my parents told me to dream. And not just to dream tiny dreams – to dream bigger and when I thought that the dream was as big as it could get, then to embellish that dream a little more. These things are probably why I was immediately drawn to the media industry, and it was my first love. I was not just a girl from Alabama with simply a wish. I was a girl with vision.
A girl. My parents sheltered me from the facts that most of the movies I loved so dearly were written by men, directed by men, men did the legal work and men put together the business deals. They never clued me into the fact that the women I saw on screen might be the only females involved in the entire production, in front of or behind the camera. They did not let me know there were few film and television heroines behind the scenes for me to admire and aim to be like. It might have ruined the dream. It might have discouraged me.
Unfortunately, little has changed. Today, women in the media industry still make up a strikingly small percentage of crew roles. The percentage decreases even more when the subset of all women working in film or television is narrowed down to those who hold decision-making authority. Meaning, the directors, head writers, show runners, producers and attorneys.
A report released in 2013 showed these numbers. The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2012 report, which can be read in its entirety HERE, showed the following:
- 38% of films employed 0 or 1 woman in the roles considered, 23% employed 2 women, 28% employed 3 to 5 women, and 10% employed 6 to 9 women.
- In the top 250 films of 2012, women represented: writers (15%), executive producers/producers (17%/25%), editors (20%), and cinematographers (2%).
- A historical comparison of women’s employment on the top 250 films in 2012 and 1998 reveals that the percentages of women directors and editors have not changed. The percentages of women writers and producers have increased slightly. The percentages of women executive producers and cinematographers have declined.
- Out of the 39 blockbuster movies slated to come out this summer, only 1 is directed by a female. Just one.
The Washington Post reported last week and explained the lack of women, especially in the director’s chair is linked with financing. You can read the entire article HERE. A quick scan of the movies this Summer shows that if a female is listed as a writer, then she is usually given second billing after the male writer.
Society wonders why women characters are never fully developed, why the female leads in movies appear unrealistic or complain because female characters are simply used as props to serve the purpose of telling the males’ plot lines. If the movie is about the family, the men are portrayed as idiots who cannot even care for their children for five seconds. The scripts for these family films even use words like “babysit,” instead of parent. It’s insulting to the families I know. If you want more realistic female characters and story lines, then let’s start giving women a chance on set and choose them for those decision making positions.
I am not saying give women a chance if they are not qualified. But, as the Washington Post article pointed out, it is hard for women to work their way up because they are not given as many opportunities. Therefore, a disproportionate amount of men are given the chances to grow, develop and to shape their craft.
I know I will have readers that read this and say “but, I’m more comfortable with John Doe because I have always hired him. I’m not discriminating against women. It is who I am comfortable with.” To that I ask, why are you comfortable? There was a point in both John Doe’s and Jane Doe’s career where they had equal skill sets and equal experience. However, you Mr. Filmmaker decided to continually hire John Doe, thus giving him opportunities and him gaining the experience. Just because you do not think you are discriminating does not mean that your hiring practices do not produce the result of a discriminatory effect. If the majority of your crew is always male, that’s a problem – off the screen and once the film makes it to the screen.
The saying “write about what you know” is applicable to film and media too. These men have mothers, might have wives, might have female friends, sisters and co-workers. These men may very well draw inspiration from all of those women in their lives. But guys, you do not know our struggles; you do not know our friendships; you do not know what it is like to be a mother, wife or sister. There is no way you could fully comprehend what it is like to be a woman. You do not know our story, and you certainly are not the best person to tell it.
Support those films that employ a female crew in roles outside of the more “traditional” roles of wardrobe, makeup artistry and craft services. You can find a full list of crew members for most any film by visiting IMDB.com. Your support of these projects will encourage the media to choose women for those roles because they are qualified and because it is best for telling complete stories. Let’s give future little girls someone besides Spielberg, Disney and Scorsese to look up to. Did I fail to mention I know some outstanding female entertainment attorneys too?
What do you think can be done to help with the disparity of women in leadership roles in film and media? Take part in the comments section below and Stay Tuned In!
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