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New Diversity Reports Reveal Challenges, Opportunity for Minority Groups in the Film Industry

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Studies from USC Annenberg and San Diego State illuminate obstacles on the road to diversity and equity among Hollywood directors and other behind-the-scenes roles.

In Hollywood, the turn of the calendar year is an acute reminder that awards season is fully upon us. It also represents a chance to take stock of the onward march toward equity and representation in the film and television industry.

And while 2022 brought us several successful, critically acclaimed films featuring women and members of racial minority groups starring on-camera and conducting the action behind it, two new reports from Hollywood’s backyard reveal the big-picture obstacles that still exist regarding inclusiveness on the basis of gender and race: “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair” from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and “Celluloid Ceiling” from San Deigo State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Let’s take a closer look at what these reports found.

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“Inclusion in the Director’s Chair” (USC Annenberg)

Analyzing a selection of 1,200 movies released between 2007 and 2018, the Los Angeles university’s Inclusion Initiative found that just 4% of directors were women (46 total out of 1,335), 6% were Black/African-American, and 3.1% were Asian/Asian-American. Out of those 46 women, 39 were white.

Going even further, the study reveals that age-based discrimination is unavoidable as a mitigating factor as well — out of 1,335 directors in this sample, there is not a single woman director under the age of 30 or over 70:

Other key findings from USC Annenberg’s “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair” report:

  • Across a sample of 300 major films released between 2016 and 2018, 72.3% of producers were white men and outnumbered women 44 to 1.
  • Across that same sample of 300 movies, women of color made up just 1.6% of producers, 1.5% of production designers, 1.4% of editors, and precisely zero directors of photography.
  • To move the needle in the right direction on these issues, the Inclusion Initiative recommends measures like setting clear goals for diversity and inclusion and formalizing related policies at top companies in the industry, more transparent hiring practices, and supporting organizations that support the discovery and training of up-and-coming filmmakers.
Source: USC Annenberg Inclusion Inititative

Click here to read an download USC Annenberg’s “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair” report.

“Celluloid Ceiling” (San Diego State)

The San Diego State study’s sample includes the 250 highest-grossing movies each year since 1998. That year, 17% of directors, producers (including executive producers), cinematographers, and editors were women. In 2022, that number was 24% — an increase, yes, but a modest one.

Intriguingly enough, the study notes the extent to which having a woman in the director’s chair catalyzes diversity and inclusion in other key roles. As Debbie L. Sklar notes in The Times of San Diego, “On films with at least one woman director, women comprised 53% of writers, 39% of editors, 19% of cinematographers and 18% of composers. On films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for 12% of writers, 19% of editors, 4% of cinematographers, and 6% of composers.”

Other key findings from the SDSU Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film’s “Celluloid Ceiling” report:

  • Women represented 7% of cinematographers in 2022 — up from 4% in 1998 — while the percentage of women editors increased just one percentage point, 20 to 21
  • Of the films studied, 93% lacked women cinematographers, 80% did not have women directors, 75% had no women editors, and 70% included no women writers.

This year, it’s disappointing (but perhaps equally unsurprising) that of the six nominees for Best Director at the 2023 Golden Globes, all but one is a white male — Everything Everywhere All at Once co-director Daniel Kwan. With enough luck and enough awareness, consider our fingers crossed that the onward push for diversity and equity in Hollywood bends a bit further in the right direction when it’s time to announce Academy Award nominations on January 24.

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About The Author
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn is the Managing Editor of Boardroom. Before joining the team, he was an editor and multimedia talent for several sports and culture verticals at Minute Media and an editor, reporter, and site manager at SB Nation. A specialist in content strategy, copywriting, and SEO, he has additionally worked as a digital consultant in the corporate services, retail, and tech industries. He cannot be expected to be impartial on any matter regarding the Florida Gators or Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter @RealFakeSamDunn.