ACLU Wants Investigation of Hollywood's Bias Against Women Directors

Director's ChairAccording to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),

A large body of statistical evidence reveals dramatic disparities in the hiring of women directors in film and television; women are effectively excluded from directing big-budget studio films and seriously under-represented in television directing.

The ACLU claims that women are systematically excluded from directing as a result of:

  • studios’, networks’, and producers’ intentional and discriminatory failure to recruit, consider, and hire qualified women directors;
  • use of discriminatory recruiting and screening practices that have the effect of shutting women out, such as word-of-mouth recruiting and use of short lists on which women are under-represented;
  • reliance on, and perpetuation of, sex stereotyping in hiring and evaluation of women;
  • ineffective programs within the industry to increase hiring of women and people of color that do not lead to women getting directing jobs;
  • lack of enforcement of internal industry agreements to increase the hiring of women and people of color.

The ACLU reported that, allegedly as a result of this discrimination,

  • Only 1.9% of directors of the top-grossing 100 films of 2013 and of 2014 were women.
  • Of the 1,300 top-grossing films from 2002-2014, only 4.1% of all directors were women.
  • In 2014, women were only 7% of directors on the top 250 grossing films.
  • In an analysis of more than 220 television shows, representing about 3500 total episodes, women were only 14% of directors in 2013-2014.
  • A whopping 70 television shows (31%) had no women directing even a single episode in the 2013-2014 season.

The ACLU says this “glaring absence” of women directors is “highly indicative of systemic employment discrimination.” The ACLU is thus asking the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other agencies to launch an investigation of Hollywood’s employment practices, focusing on major Hollywood studios, television networks, and talent agencies.

Employment Discrimination

Federal law makes it unlawful for an employer to

fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin…

(Emphasis added.)

The EEOC held hearings about employment discrimination against minorities in Hollywood in the 1960s and asked for the US Justice Department to intervene. The Justice Department found that discrimination existed and reached a settlement with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers and several entertainment industry unions.

The ACLU said that past enforcement measures to prevent employment discrimination by Hollywood eventually failed.

Melissa Goodman, director of the L.G.B.T., Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the A.C.L.U. of Southern California, said in the New York Times:

Women directors aren’t working on an even playing field and aren’t getting a fair opportunity to succeed. Gender discrimination is illegal. And, really, Hollywood doesn’t get this free pass when it comes to civil rights and gender discrimination.

Oscar Snub?

Some saw race and/or gender bias in the snubbing by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Selma director Ava DuVernay. The film was nominated for best picture but not best director.

In the 87 year history of the Oscars, only one woman has won the best director award – Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker, in 2010.

A woman -- Alice Guy-Blaché – directed the very first narrative film, in 1896.

Have you been a victim of employment discrimination?

If you feel that you’ve been a victim of employment discrimination, you may wish to contact an employment law or civil rights attorney in your area.

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