University of Southern California Study Examines the Gender Gap in the Film Industry

A new report from the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative of the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles finds that women are making slow progress in increasing their presence in Hollywood’s most popular movies.

Researchers examined nearly 40,000 speaking roles in popular Hollywood films from 2007 to 2016. They found that women and girls made up about one third of characters with speaking roles. In the top 100 grossing films of 2016, women and girls were only 31.4 percent of the actors who had speaking roles.

Stacy Smith, the lead author of the report, an associate professor of communication, and the director of the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative, stated that “it is impossible to look at this data without concluding that much of the advocacy surrounding on-screen representation over the past few years has not been successful.” Dr. Smith joined the faculty at the University of Southern California in 2003. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The report found that 34 of the 100 top-grossing films in 2016 had a woman as the lead character. Only three of these leading women characters were from underrepresented groups. Only eight portrayed characters that were 45 years or older. In these top grossing films of 2016, more than a quarter had some nudity of women, while only 9.2 percent had some nudity of male characters.

The gender gap in Hollywood is also apparent behind the camera. Of the 1,006 directors of the 900 films studied, women made up 4.1 percent of the total.

The full report, Inequality in 900 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race/Ethnicity. LGBT, and Disability from 2007 to 2016, can be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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