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by Paula Bernstein
February 19, 2014 11:35 AM
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7 Depressing Facts About Women in Media from New Women's Media Center Report

'Scandal' Danny Feld/ABC

Another day, another depressing story about the state of women in film and media -- at least that's how it sometimes feels. Just last month we published an essay from director Lexi Alexander about the underrepresentation of women filmmakers in Hollywood. Clearly, these stories touch a nerve. When we published "Gender Inequality in Film: in Infographic Form," it was one of Indiewire's most widely read stories (with 93 comments!).

Now comes the annual report from the Women's Media Center, a nonprofit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem with the goal of making women visible and powerful in media. While noting barriers broken by women like "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhines and The New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, WMC’s 2014 Status of Women in U.S. Media Report notes the overall lack of progress in terms of female representation. Women of color, who are spotlighted in this report for the first time, have lost ground in recent years.

"The media is failing women across the board," said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. "The Women’s Media Center produces the annual Status of Women in U.S. Media Report to provide an overview of the role of women in media and thereby in society. It is a roadmap for where we are as a society and where we need to go for women to achieve an equal voice and equal participation. The numbers tell a clear story for the need for change on every media platform."

Here are the 7 most depressing facts about women in media (focusing on film and TV since we're Indiewire):

1. Over a five-year period ending in 2012, the 500 top-grossing movies had 565 directors, 33 of whom were black and two of that 33 were black women.

2. In the top 100 films of 2012 -- when women had fewer speaking roles than in any year since 2007 -- females snagged 28.4% of roles with speaking parts.

3. A dozen top decision-makers in the film industry said they perceived the pool of qualified women filmmakers to be smaller than that of qualified men.

4. Of the 250 top-grossing domestically made films of 2013, women accounted for 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors, slightly lower than the 2012 and 1998 figures.

5. According to a two-month snapshot in 2013, men wrote 82% of all film reviews.

6. Women snared 43% of speaking parts in prime-time TV, up from 41% previously, but those women tended to be much younger than their male counterparts.

7. Only 6% of the top 100 films in 2012 hired a balanced cast of women and men.

Clearly, we've still got a long way to go when it comes to female representation in media.

The WMC released the report in advance of a panel discussion on "Women, Media and Leadership, being held today in conjunction with Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The report was prepared by journalist Katti Gray, Texas State University professor Cindy Royal, and the Center’s media relations manager, Cristal Williams Chancellor. In addition to film and television, the report also analyzed the representation of women in newspapers, web news sites, radio, social media, video games and other areas. Read the full report here.
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  • Zach | February 22, 2014 12:35 PMReply

    "A dozen top decision-makers in the film industry said they perceived the pool of qualified women filmmakers to be smaller than that of qualified men. "

    No duh. If there are more men than women, then obviously the pool of qualified individuals will be smaller -- especially when dealing with straight-up numbers. If you check the percentage of qualified men to the percentage of qualified women, you'll statistically end up in the same ball park.

  • Veronica R. Hernandez | February 20, 2014 9:28 PMReply

    Okay...so who do I talk to , to help me make some great films? I want into the club.

  • Brandon | February 20, 2014 12:48 AMReply

    Jesus H Christ. If I see one more if these stupid statistics I just want to throw up. Here are some life truths that women, men, blacks, whites and everybody in between will have to come to terms with. They are, there are no shortcuts and the cream will always rise to the top. The women, blacks, men, whites who are living by the axioms will make it to the top and will make films, make money, EARN respect, and be at the top of whatever it is that they are doing. The ones that aren't and will never do it are looking at these victim based articles and blame some other group of people for their failures and inaction.

    The sooner you can stop blaming anyone and stop coming out with these stupid articles justifying wherever it is you are or aren't, the sooner you will be able to reach or find whatever it is your looking for.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | February 20, 2014 1:13 PM

    It's not a question of artificial equality or affirmative action, Brandon. All men and women are not created equal, but in America we all deserve equality of opportunity.

    It cannot be denied or even overstated that in all facets of life and industry, the rule that many subconsciously reinforce and/or choose to ignore -- often due to blind spots regarding one's personal privilege or one's wished proximity to the privileged -- is as stated in "Animal Farm:" All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

    Are we to believe, verily, that there are simply more talented whites in the arts than people of color, or more talented men than women? Merit is but one variable and to deny any other factor is to assume and live in ignorance -- thus perpetuating the problem.

  • Lucy | February 20, 2014 12:21 PM

    Brandon, I am sympathetic to the idea (which I think explains the forcefulness of your comment) that statistics need context and interpretation. But your suggestion that the people who succeed professionally in any given industry are simply the "cream" who have "risen" to the top is naive and reductive. There are all types of limitations and prejudices governing who gets to tell stories and what kinds of stories are told. Historically these were sometimes overt: like laws which restricted people of color from participating in certain industries or institutions. But they can also be more tacit: prejudices around what people are capable of and indeed interested in govern many high-level industry decisions about what gets commissioned, and about who gets appointed to certain roles.

    Locating and discussing prejudice like this is not the same as adopting a victim-complex. In fact, it can be its opposite. Highlighting and challenging prejudice is an assertion of agency, not an example of a victim mentality.

  • Roger.Sterling@sterlingdraper | February 19, 2014 11:28 PMReply

    Look, sweetheart, I'm all for Dorothy B Anthony on the two dollar bill or whatever, but you're just a downer with all those stats. Do yourself a favor and refresh my martini, would you, darling? And would some lipstick kill you?

  • rafina | February 19, 2014 10:53 PMReply

    This doesn't surprise me at all. I can't stand most of the films I see--even in the "art" houses. And I love films and went to film school. Clearly, we need to keep fighting the good fight and make films regardless of what the "industry" does. Someday things will change, but this is going to be harder than tearing down the Berlin Wall.

  • mass | February 19, 2014 9:04 PMReply

    White males, this is the 21st century. Prepare to feel like everything you do is sexist and racist, and prepare to feel guilt tripped just for being a white male. It's racist and sexist generalization's from other people including white males who prefer to hate on white males for that one reason that no one knows. It's time for you white males out there. Prepare for it all, because this is just the beginning....

    "Stupid white males are so racist and sexist because people who aren't white and aren't male aren't really in the media as much as white males! Garr! I hate them all! You all, white males, should feel ashamed of being white males you sexist racists!!!"

  • Edward A | February 19, 2014 2:51 PMReply

    This article should really be about anyone that is non-white male. Minorities across the board are feeling the same depression. Hollywood is controlled by by White Males.

  • Joe H. | February 19, 2014 2:22 PMReply

    I agree so much. We need to fight actively to make sure more women are filmmakers whether they want to or not. Scorsese? Spielberg? Fincher? Fire them, we need more women!

    Affirmative action is a joke.

  • Shane | February 19, 2014 4:11 PM

    I'm working on a film review website right now... I really should scrap it immediately and convince my sister to develop one instead. #progress

  • Harrison | February 19, 2014 2:12 PMReply

    Wow. I'm sorry but guys have no idea what it's REALLY like being a female in the Film Industry. They have every opportunity they want. Saying "You wanna be a Director then do it!!!" Haha. That's funny. Many Directors come from 2 places. AD Dept. And Camera Dept. For a long time Film cameras were pretty damn heavy. So a female was not "strong enough" to move heavy Cam. Equip. Around. When you're a female. You have a choice. Makeup and Hair or Wardrobe. Or Scripty. If you want to do anything else besides that---you better "Butch" up and be one tough chick. If you wanna see how incredibly unbalanced the Film / Media Industry is go to NAB in Vegas. You will find very few women. Like. A sea of men in jeans and blazers. People say dumb things like "Well what about Katheryn Bigelow or Sophia Coppola?" Oh great, so either basically you have to be related to a famous Director or marry / divorce one. And very few Crew guys G&E or Cam. wanna be told what to do by a female. It's just a fact. I'm very hopeful with the new President of the DGA--who he himself is a minority in the Industry. But when you are a female and you love this Industry it will always be a struggle. I work very very hard. But when guys schmooze they are "Networking". When a female does the exact same thing they think I'm flirting. No matter how smart a female is. They will never have the opportunity a guy has. FACT.

  • rafina | February 19, 2014 10:54 PM

    You write like a moron, sound like a moron. Must BE A MORON.

  • Shane | February 19, 2014 12:55 PMReply

    "According to a two-month snapshot in 2013, men wrote 82% of all film reviews."

    Start writing then! Very tired of seeing countless statistics with women in the minority and hearing the "gender inequality" crowd come to play. 82% of men are writing film reviews because... well... THEY ARE WRITING FILM REVIEWS!
    Focus on situations where actual sexism is occurring. This 82% is nothing but a fun fact.

    This desire for a 50/50 split for everything is counterproductive. In any industry, TALENT AND EXPERIENCE should always have precedence.

  • Joe H. | February 19, 2014 2:24 PM

    Agreed. Total BS

  • priya | February 19, 2014 12:24 PMReply

    Oh stop blaming men for everything. Do you want to be a director? Make long working hours, sacrifice your social life, stop gossiping, go learn the craft, be bold and take actions, make your own shorts and movies that will make you stand out, network and most of all, put in all the hours needed to make it work. Noooo, women do want to get babies, talk to their friends all the time, spend their money on fashion instead of in good education, they dream about a prince marrying them into wealth instead of getting rich themselves. Btw, I'm a woman myself. Sick of all those women who blame men but aren't ambitious enough to break through.

  • J | February 20, 2014 1:52 PM

    As a woman you really generalize a great deal. Therefore, as a woman myself I demand you get me a sandwich. I'm busy trying to make things happen while the man keeps us down.

  • Cee | February 19, 2014 1:07 PM

    You do realize that women make up a substantially higher percentage of higher education than men... right? I don't know where you live in this world, but patriarchy and sexism in America are REAL honey

  • Amy | February 19, 2014 12:56 PM

    wow. generalize much?

  • Ryan | February 19, 2014 11:58 AMReply

    But what's the ratio for women in the film industry compared to men? It's definitely not 50/50. In my graduating class at film school there were about 7 girls and 50 guys. So when you put that into the equation, I'm sure these numbers don't seem so terrible. I do agree that it's a problem, but simply stating these numbers without throwing out the fact that there are less women trying to break out into the industry makes it look worse than it is. The acting, however, is obviously a huge problem. It probably comes from men not knowing how to write for women. I'm an aspiring screenwriter and I'll admit that I'm scared to write a female lead character. I feel like I would get too many things wrong.

  • Holly Payberg | February 20, 2014 1:04 PM

    I agree Ryan. I am a female writer/director and these stats don't make me sad or defeated, they make me determined. I think you are right that these stats are a reflection of a simple fact, that there has been a certain group of people (in this case men) who have been the ones doing something for a very long time (in this case filmmaking) and naturally they built their bonds, they developed their trusts, they hired their friends and as time went by it got institutionalized and therefore it has become tough for new people (in this case women) to break in. Does it suck sometimes that we have to work twice as hard just to bust through? Yes. But reality is reality, it is what it is. If enough of us over time claim a respected seat at the table, eventually it won't be as tough. So for me, these articles just put a fire in my belly to work that much harder to bust through it. And not because I have any problem with male writer/director/execs, I have genuinely loved the movies and TV shows they have created all my life, and will keep loving them, but because I know that storytelling is incredibly influential on society and I truly believe we need more female influence than we currently have. We don't need more women creating stories for women, we need more women creating universal stories that are told from the unique perspective of a woman.

    I will say this though - I see way too many powerful men in this industry hanging out with young women who don't even fully know themselves yet and who's main excitement in life at that point is hanging out with powerful men and then they base their knowing of who women are based on their experiences with them (which naturally gets reflected in their storytelling) and all I can say is, those are not depictions of who women are, they are depictions of who the women they hang out with are which is a tiny fraction of who women actually are. It's extremely limiting and disrespectful to paint women with that brush as if that's all there is to it. We are so much more.