The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has called for legal action with several federal and California-state agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, requesting investigations into “the systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and television industry.”
According to statistics women only represent 7 percent of directors, 11 percent of writers, and 18 percent of editors on the most successful films over the past 17 years.
The director of ACLU Southern California’s LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, Melissa Goodman said “Hollywood studios don’t get a free pass to violate civil rights laws.”
This is not the first time the ACLU has tried to fight against gender inequality in Hollywood. In the 1960s, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asked the Justice Department to investigate employment discrimination in Hollywood.
However a settlement was reached with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers and several unions. But the ACLU has declared those efforts a failure, and now demands an investigation into “overt sex stereotyping and implicit bias.”
According to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, opportunities for female directors in Hollywood are declining.
The ACLU also said in a statement “The failure to hire women directors in film and television cannot be attributed to a lack of qualified or interested women. Women are well represented in prominent film schools such as U.S.C., N.Y.U., and U.C.L.A.”
ACLU researchers also found out that the number of women studying at leading film schools in the US was roughly on a par with men. Although female directors are doing well at school, they are finding things more difficult when it comes to getting a job with major studios.
Ariela Migdal, a senior staff attorney in the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU said, “There is no shortage of talent. But then the men get picked up by the studios and the women don’t. It’s blatant and it’s widespread across the industry. When you have statistics and a lot of complaints from individuals, it shows a pattern.”
Statistics also indicate that for independent cinema does not have the same gender imbalance as the rest of Hollywood. A quarter of the films shown at Sundance between 2002 and 2014 were directed by women.
However, studies have shown that female directors are far less likely to make the leap from festival success to mainstream opportunities.
The ACLU found that “rampant gender discrimination” against female movie directors also involves actors, writers and other roles in both film and television.
Migdal also added “Hollywood is in a dire situation in terms of gender disparities and the industry has been pretty much getting away with it.”
The ACLU noted in 2014, only 7 percent of the directors of the 250 top-grossing Hollywood-produced films were women which was down 2 percent on the equivalent figure for 1998.
And last year, 70 network television shows hired no female directors at all, the advocacy group said.