Two weeks ago, the Women’s Steering Committee at the DGA rejected a proposal that could have increased the opportunities for women directors in TV. As we all know, the numbers of women directing are still very low. A 2014 report released by the DGA showed that white women directed 12% of TV episodes; women of color directed 2% and men of color 17%. The numbers for women remained static from the previous report, while the numbers for men of color increased from 14% to 17%. White men directed 69% of all TV episodes analyzed.
The rejected proposal was intended to separate women and people of color into two separate diversity categories to create more opportunities for the former. (Just a reminder here: Women are not a minority, but because there are so few female helmers, women directors are included in diversity conversations in an attempt to increase their numbers.) Studios are not required to hire a certain amount of women or minority directors. They are just encouraged to do so. Here’s the language from the DGA’s basic agreement: “The Employer shall make good faith efforts to increase the number of working ethnic minority and women Directors.”
Currently, diversity agreements with studios have just one category for diversity, one that includes both women and men of color. So while the studios can actually claim they are fulfilling their diversity numbers by hiring men of color, women, especially women of color are the ones not advancing. If the new proposal would be adopted by the Guild, women of color would qualify for both pools and inevitably, we’d see an increase in their numbers.
Thirty-five years ago, six women started the Women’s Steering Committee with the desire to increase opportunities for women. For a time, it worked. They got women’s representation up to 16% from a mere 0.05%. Yet opportunities for women have contracted. There have been women in the Guild working to change these numbers. One of the leaders in this area is Maria Giese. Check out her blog Women Directors in Hollywood, which is devoted to this issue. The proposal that was voted down two weeks ago was submitted by Ramaa Mosley.
Mind you that, if the committee had passed the proposal, it would only have led to a larger discussion among the Guild leadership. The battle was all about passing the idea up the food chain to the head honchos. Yet it could not get out of committee. There are a variety of reasons why. But the time to belabor the point is over.
The DGA has shown time and again that they are not too concerned about increasing opportunities for women. They talk a good talk, but the action is not there. Yes, there are a bunch of women who are incredibly successful, but they are the outliers, not the majority.
Women directors would like equal opportunities to contribute in their chosen field. If this was all about merit, we wouldn’t need to be having this conversation. But everyone knows this is not about merit; this is about limited opportunities and blatant sexism.
The time has come for the powers that be at the Guild to decide if they want to continue to be a part of the problem — or to be on the right side of history and figure out how to lead on this. Women directors need work, and we need their visions.