Where Are All the Women Film Directors?


Greta Gerwig behind the scenes of ‘Ladybird.’

Lisset Saavedra, Editor in Chief

Since 2007, Hollywood has been making progress with more women directing top-grossing movies. A dozen women directed 100 movies in 2019, representing 10.6% of all directors. This is up from 4.5% of directors in the same category in 2018, though women of color are still underrepresented among filmmakers, according to a study found from USC.

The big improvement came from Universal Pictures, which has released five films directed by women. Earlier last year, it became the first major studio to support the “4% Challenge,” a plan for studios to commit to work with at least one female director on a feature film over the next 18 months.

Paramount Pictures has had the worst track record, distributing only three movies from 2007 to 2019 that were directed by women, according to the study. By comparison, Universal had 15 female directors over the same period, including Queen & Slim and Abominable, released last year.

Despite making better-reviewed movies, women from underrepresented race or ethnic groups had the least opportunities, according to the study.

Less than 1% of all directing jobs went to women of color in the 1,300 top movies released from 2007 to 2019 covered in the study, while white men accounted for 82.5%.

Until 2019, only two women of color, Ava DuVernay and Jennifer Yuh Nelson, directed more than one movie among the 1,300 films surveyed. Last year, four more women of color were added to that group, including Kasi Lemmons, who directed Focus Features’ Harriet, about the story of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Of the 113 directors of top 100 films in 2019, 83.2% were white and 16.8% were from underrepresented race or ethnic groups, down from 21.4% in 2018 and substantially below the U.S. Census of 39.6%, according to Annenberg.

Greta Gerwig, who directed the successful December release Little Women,’ is the most likely among female directors to get a best director nomination for the Oscars, according to awards tracking site Gold Derby.