New York Film Academy Premieres Infographic on Gender Inequality

The gender inequality in film and television is long-standing and undeniable, and sadly, it’s not exactly on the decline. Though it’s great that we’re ending 2013 ending on a high note for women in film thanks to the great success of female-led Catching Fire and female-directed Frozen, it’s probably a bit early to get overly-optimistic about the upcoming year. What got me thinking about this particular topic again? A recent and very eye-opening  infographic on gender inequality in film by the insiders at the New York Film Academy.

Are there women in film using their talents and having success as writers, directors, and actors? Absolutely, and their work should not be discounted. But the fact remains that the percentages of women in all areas of film compared to those of men is so unbalanced that it’s almost comical. Almost. You might expect the misogyny to lie primarily behind the scenes, but the NYFA’s infographic tells us that from 2007-2012, even the number of speaking roles in films was terribly lopsided – only 30.8% of film characters with a speaking role were women.  A quick glance at the infographic’s section on how those women onscreen are portrayed shows that the news there isn’t positive, either. (And for more on that subject you should definitely watch my friend, Jennifer Seibel Newsom’s documentary Miss Representation.

Behind the scenes the numbers are even more stark: in the top 250 films of 2012, only 9% were directed by women. Females accounted for only 15% of writers, 17% of executive producers, and 25% of producers. Cinematographer was the job with the smallest number of women; just 2% of the top films of 2012 had a woman behind the camera.

So what can be done about this gender inequality in film? Without a doubt, strides are being made, but there seems to be a need for a real impetus to get things truly moving in the right direction. Efforts like Miss Representation and Geena Davis’s Institute on Gender in Media are absolutely fantastic vehicles for change, but how long will they have to tirelessly work until Hollywood truly starts offering more and better roles to women both in front of and behind the camera? That’s a question that we think simply doesn’t have an answer at the moment.

What do you think of the NYFA’s infographic? Were you surprised by the numbers, or were they what you expected to see? What do you think needs to happen to bring some gender balance to film?

View full Infographic: NYFA Infographics 

  • I was 50% surprised, as I already had an inkling of these stats. I’ve been thinking about my own current story project and noticed something interesting. The way I chose this project is that I posted 10 story ideas I’d really love to explore and had the audience vote. Of the top three, 2 had female protagonists, but the one that won had a male protagonist (and a STRONG female right next to him). It seems that we as an audience need this infographic. I’ve thought about changing some of the characters’ genders in my current project, but I feel the contrast actually strengthen’s my female character’s place in the story. I also have an “invisible” (we hear and see signs of her) character who is feminine…and “she’s” a powerful influence in the story. I’m working on it. I learn so much from your posts, Brenda. It feels like I’m discovering some fresh, new creative territory. Thank you.

    • brendachapman

      Thank you, Scott! I’m so glad that you are inspired by some of the things I’m passionate about. Your daughter is a very lucky girl to have a dad like you!

  • LAHill

    Yes, I am surprised. I expected the numbers to be higher by now. What can we do? Educate! Get informational materials to school teachers so they can start early in letting girls know that these fields are wide open and ready for them. You are doing a great job – are other females in the business doing the same? What about the men? They can spread the word too.

    Start them young- give positive reinforcement-let them know they can do anything they put their minds to, and hope they listen.

    • brendachapman

      Other women in the industry are trying… and hopefully making a difference. Time will tell. And men? See Scott’s comment below… I think there are a few out there who understand the need for change and are doing what they can. I think many of them just need to know the facts, and that will be good reason for them to start.
      Thanks for the kind words.

    • Yes we CAN spread the word. As Brenda mentioned, there are a growing number of us men who want to help. I’m now on the verge of breaking back in the industry as a character animator and from there my goal is to work to develop new films. Already working on my own IP’s, I’ve become extremely interested in this under-explored creative territory: in the strength of women!

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