Female student behind camera
Story Research

The ‘Celluloid Ceiling’: Still a Big Problem for Women in Entertainment


A study led by San Diego State’s Dr. Martha Lauzen finds that gender inequality in the film industry is getting worse, not better.

Female student behind camera

Dr. Lauzen's research reveals the need for more diversity and inclusion of women who work behind the camera in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of San Diego State


Today, the 2017 Academy Award nominations​ were announced and the lack of representation of women behind the scenes of the film industry is evident:  ​​​No women were nominated for an Oscar for directing or writing an original screenplay; and just one woman was co-nominated for film editing, along with one for writing an adapted screenplay.​

These dismal rates square with the results of a recent study by Martha Lauzen, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State. In 2016, Dr. Lauzen found, women made up only seven percent of all directors working on the 250 top-grossing domestic films. That's a drop from nine percent in 2015.

In an interview with San Diego State, Lauzen noted that "women who direct films actually lost ground in 2016," adding that current efforts to address women's underemployment in the film industry are insufficient.

Similarly, women comprised a meager 17 percent of those working in other entertainment roles, such as writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers.

Lauzen's analysis of the 500 top-grossing domestic films in 2016 also revealed that female directors are likelier to employ higher percentages of female staff. For example, on films with a female director, women comprised 64 percent of writers, while on films with a male director, women only accounted for nine percent of writers.

In looking at the various roles of women in making films—director, writer, executive producer, producer, editor and cinematographer—since 1998, just one—cinematographer—has seen an increase when comparing 1998 figures to those for 2016.

The increase in female cinematographers was just 1 percent—from 4 percent to 5 percent—between 1998 and 2016.

Visit the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego State to read more about this research.

Diversity; Entertainment Alliance