The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is tasked with enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, has launched an investigation of gender disparities in the film and television industry, following a request made by the American Civil Liberties Union in May.
Coming on the heels of a USC study that found women filmmakers frequently tumble off a “fiscal cliff” early in their careers—just one of many depressing statistics to reveal the yawning gender gap in Hollywood—the news is a “HUGE step forward,” according to Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein. “It feels historic,” commercial and music video director Lori Precious, one of multiple women contacted by the EEOC, told the Los Angeles Times. In addition, California Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday signed into law a stricter version of the state’s Fair Pay Act, which Forbes’ Nelson Granados argues will ameliorate Hollywood “wage sexism” of the kind Patricia Arquette decried in her acceptance speech at this year’s Oscars.
The EEOC’s decision to investigate gender discrimination in Hollywood is no guarantee of a tangible change in the number of women filmmakers, of course. If the commission concludes that a “pattern of discrimination” does exist, it may file a lawsuit or act as a mediator among the various parties, but the multifaceted film business may be hard to wrangle in such circumstances. Still, the news is a welcome step forward in the fight for gender equality in film and TV, especially behind the camera.