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Women Hit the Celluloid Ceiling

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film finds little progress for women working in film.
A young woman directs actors during filming.
A young woman directs actors during filming.

Women comprised 18 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films in 2011.

This represents an increase of 2 percent from 2010 and an increase of 1 percent from 1998.

Tracking women in TV and film

The findings were collected as part of journalism and media studies professor Martha Lauzen's annual Celluloid Ceiling study, a behind-the-scenes look at the employment of women working in television and film. 

A historical comparison of women’s employment on the top 250 films in 2011 and 1998 reveals that the percentage of women directors has declined. In 2010, women accounted for 5 percent of directors, a decrease of 2 percent from 2010, approximately half the percentage of women directors working in 1998.

By the numbers

Overall, 38 percent of films employed no or only one woman in the roles considered, 23 percent employed two women, 30 percent employed three to five women, and 7 percent employed six to nine women.

In contrast, the percentages of women writers and producers have increased slightly while the percentages of female executive producers, editors and cinematographers have remained the same:

  • Women accounted for 14 percent of writers working on the top 250 films of 2011
  • Women comprised 18 percent of all executive producers working on the top 250 films of 2011
  • Women accounted for 25 percent of all producers working on the top 250 films of 2011
  • Women accounted for 20 percent of all editors working on the top 250 films of 2011
  • Women comprised 4 percent of all cinematographers working on the top 250 films of 2011

In terms of genre, women were most likely to work in documentaries, drama and comedy. They were least likely to work in the horror, action and animated genres.

About the Celluloid Ceiling Study

The annual research study analyzed the employment of 2,636 individuals working behind the scenes on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2011. However, foreign films were not included in the study.

Historical comparisons were made of women occupying behind-the-scenes roles over time, as well as gender differences in key behind-the-scenes roles and employment on the top 250 films of 2011.

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