Female Directors Are At An All-Time High

ava duvernay directing on the set of selma

The latest update to the Celluloid Ceiling Report, which tracks women’s employment in cinema, shows that women are represented in more behind-the-scenes roles than ever before

The report, by Dr Martha Lauzen of the San Diego State University, is in its 23rd year and is recognised as the longest-running report of its kind. Since 1998, it has tracked over 73,000 credits.

This year’s study tracked over 2,700 off-camera credits from the 250 top-grossing films in the USA.

In 2020, women comprised 23% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 films. In 2019, this figure was 21%, indicating a small change within the industry.

However, this new figure is only 6% higher than 1998.

female directors graph

Dr Lauzen said: “Even without the release of some of this year’s most anticipated big-budget films by women – including Chloé Zhao’s Eternals and Cate Shortland’s Black Widow – the percentage of women working as directors inched upward in 2020.”

She continued: “The good news is that we’ve now seen two consecutive years of growth for women who direct. This breaks a recent historical pattern in which the numbers trend up one year and down the next.

The bad news is that 80% of top films still do not have a woman at the helm.”

In 2020, the majority of films (67%) employed 0 to 4 women in the roles considered. In contrast, 5% of films employed 0 to 4 men in these roles.

Of the films studied:

  • 80% had no women directors
  • 73% had no women writers
  • 41% had no women exec. producers
  • 26% had no women producers
  • 72% had no women editors
  • 94% had no women cinematographers  

“The imbalance is stunning,” added Dr Lauzen.

The full study can be read here.

Words by Emily Withers

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