So how can we create opportunities? Pressure works. Employment of women directors rose in TV when the DGA publicly pressured the Networks to hire minorities. However, now the statistics tell us that the number of women directing TV has remained static at around 11% for years. Worse, according to Martha Lauzen in her Celluloid Ceiling report of 2011, women comprised 5% of feature directors, down from 2000 when women made up 11 % of feature directors, (the best it’s ever been.)
What is happening? I had more women in my class when I attended NYU Film School in the twentieth century than I have in the directing classes I teach at Chapman now. I have spoken to young women who love directing but don’t see it as a viable career. They may be right.
I was raised to believe I was equal, and discovered, working in movies, it wasn’t true. I’ve spent my life trying to change that. Though women directors are now a small part of the industry, we are an invisible minority. Even in government, we lack representation and our right to choose (ie. our freedom) is in question, again. It feels like we have gone backwards. The cultural dismissal of women is so ingrained that the public (including some women) doesn’t seem to perceive a problem.
The only people who know how big the problem is are the women who suffer the consequences of lack of opportunity and loss of career and income. But, in a real way the public looses by not seeing the work and insights or having the example of the women who are shut out.
So here is my dramatic answer to how to get more women in power in directing careers: I believe we need an intervention in hiring practices like a law. This would have to be a Civil Rights or Equal Opportunity Employment act against discrimination in private employment. Are Republicans and Democrats going to join hands to pass this? No.
Conversely, we have to level the playing field to put women directors in positions of equal power. Yet, we won’t be looked at equally until the cultural attitude toward women and our entire belief system changes. Perhaps the best we can ask for is more pressure public and private on the men at the studios to include high on their agenda “success for women”; and in practice equal hiring of women directors in all genres.