Sexism In Hollywood’s So Bad, The Government’s Stepping In

Daisy Cousens

“I’m so tired of hearing, ‘There aren’t qualified women’ in Hollywood.”

In a push long anticipated by women in the entertainment industry, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has started contacting female film and television directors about the glaring gender gap in Hollywood.

Marla Stern-Knowlton, systemic supervisor of the Los Angeles district office of the EEOC, contacted 50 women last week and requested an interview about their experiences of sexism.

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“We greatly appreciate your willingness to share your personal stories and the obstacles which you have faced in pursuit of success within your profession,” the letter read, sent out earlier this month.

As such, Hollywood could be facing a rather nasty looking government led class action on any number of issues that result in the underemployment of female directors. Sexism, ageism, racism and so-called “wageism” are all at the forefront.

The gender discrepancy goes deeper than we are led to believe. At present, women receive only 16 per cent of episodic television directing jobs, and directed less than five per cent of the major studio releases in 2014. In a recent report filed by the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) it was revealed women made up just 15 per cent of executive producers last season; a decline of 18 per cent from the season before.

“Of the 457 executive producer positions in 2013-14, women occupied 136,” the report stated. “As women represent slightly more than half of the U.S. population, the group was underrepresented by a factor of more than three to one among the writers who ran television shows in 2013-14.”

Last month Vanity Fair's article on late night TV hosts caused a stir for featuring only men.
Last month Vanity Fair’s article on late night TV hosts caused a stir for featuring only men.

The push for equality started in May, when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contacted a number of government agencies, citing a study by the University of Southern California revealing women only directed two per cent of directors of the top-grossing 100 films of 2013 and 2014. The group also cited a report by the Directors Guild of America stating women represented just 14 per cent of television directors in 2013 and 2014.

This move has been welcomed with open arms by the women contacted by the EEOC.

“I would like the EEOC to take legal action against the studios, the networks and the commercial production companies to make them comply with the law,” commercial director, Lori Precious stated.

“I hope they force people to change the way they do business because Hollywood is not exempt from the law. It feels historic. We were all hoping it would go this far. I’m so tired of hearing, ‘There aren’t qualified women’. There are qualified women to do every directing job in Hollywood.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke.

“I’m so glad we’re finally attacking this. When I started out I was so naive I didn’t realize what I was up against.”

Female directors, executive producers, writers, and every other stratum of women in Hollywood are hopeful this is a step to the good. Hollywood is an industry like any other; regardless of the glitz, glamour, and rosy image, it is not immune to prejudice.

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