Seven years ago Kathryn Bigelow won an Academy Award for Best Director for Hurt Locker. She was the first woman to win the award, marking an important moment for Hollywood and for the Academy Awards.
Zero nominees. In the 88 year history of the Oscars, in fact, only four women have been nominated for Best Director. By comparison, in the past decade, Alejandro González Iñárritu has won two Best Director Oscars (that’s 2x more than all women, if you’re keeping score), though he only has three nominations in those ten years, so at least he hasn’t accomplished more nods in 1/8th of the time.
Awards remain a flawed standard by which to judge of any creative industry, but the failure to recognize women at the Oscars is only one of many metrics which show that Hollywood has a major gender discrimination problem.
Such an evident discrimination problem exists in the business of directing films that the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs have been conducting investigations into the hiring practices of Hollywood’s major studios.
That investigation began in July, 2016, a year after the ACLU requested the feds look into “blatant and rampant discrimination against women directors in the film and television industries.”
The Directors’ Guild, the union representing film and television directors in the US, has tried to create a rule for hiring that reflects the Rooney Rule in the NFL. The Rooney Rule requires that NFL teams interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior team positions. That rule was created to correct the overwhelming whiteness of NFL leadership.
That recommendation was rejected.
Now, EEOC has found that the studios have systematically discriminated against women in their hiring. A source told Deadline that “Every one of the major studios has received a charge contending that they failed to hire women directors.” Negotiations are now underway for a settlement. If a settlement is not reached, charges will be fired for a federal discrimination lawsuit.
News of the EEOC settlement talks follows closely upon the release of a report that found shocking inequality in directing. The report examined the top 1000 films for each year between 2007-2016. Of that decade, 2008 had reached the highest levels of films directed by women: 8%. That was the highest. The report also found that 80% of women directors made only a single film in the past ten years, and a majority of women directors–54%–are one-and-done directors, never getting another opportunity to direct.
The news isn’t surprising, but always dispiriting to see how permeative discrimination is; there’s no defense against systemic discrimination.