In a press release this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that two federal government agencies (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) have finally launched investigations into discriminatory hiring practices affecting women directors in Hollywood. This announcement comes a year after the ACLU formally requested that the federal government look into gender discrimination in film and television industry that excludes women from directorial roles, following ACLU’s own two year investigation previous to that.
While federal law prevents the EEOC from denying or confirming investigations into any industry, the Los Angeles Times reported last October that several women filmmakers had been contacted by the federal agency for interviews to “learn more about the gender-related issues which you are facing in both the film and television industries.”
If evidence of systematic bias is indeed found by the EEOC, the federal government can file formal charges of discrimination against any one, or all, film studios, depending on their findings. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, this can be a tough legal process due to the sheer amount of people involved in putting a project together.
Numerous women filmmakers have spoken up since last year about the gender disparity. And despite some of the biggest blockbusters of 2015 (such as Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, Elizabeth Banks’ Pitch Perfect 2 and Nancy Meyers’ The Intern) being directed by women, the overall number of women hired to helm projects remains stagnant. “In the year since our report was released, there has been much lip-service paid to furthering opportunities for women, but few definitive steps and no serious movement in the number of women directors hired,” said Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California.
“Film and television are among our most powerful and influential cultural products, and they’re overwhelmingly made by men, telling male stories, depicting women through a male lens, and reinforcing stereotypes,” continues Goodman. “I think it shapes the way women and girls see themselves and limits the opportunities that the world presents to them.”