Although women directors reached historic highs of inclusion for films that performed well at the U.S. box office in 2020, the trend did not continue upward in the past year, according to the 24th annual Celluloid Ceiling report from San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
Just 12 percent of the directors of 2021’s 100 highest-grossing films in the U.S. were women, down from 16 percent the year before. Slightly more women were represented when the field was widened to the top 250 movies – 17 percent – but not by much (18 percent in 2020).
“Appearances can be deceiving. While Chloé Zhao won the Oscar last year for directing Nomadland and Jane Campion is a frontrunner in this year’s race for The Power of the Dog, the percentage of women directing films actually declined in 2021,” the Center’s founder and executive director Martha Lauzen said in a statement. “Basing our perceptions of how women are faring on the well-deserved fortunes of just a few high-profile women can lead us to inaccurate conclusions about the state of women’s employment.”
Across key behind-the-scenes roles, women occupied 21 percent of those jobs among the top 100 films (even with 2020) and 25 percent among the top 250, a slight increase from 2020’s 23 percent thanks to an increased proportion of women as producers (from 30 percent to 32 percent) and executive producers (from 21 percent to 26 percent). On the other hand, the share of writers (17 percent), editors (22 percent) and cinematographers (6 percent) remained flat.
Most (61 percent) of 2021’s films employed no more than four women in these positions, whereas 72 percent of the movies had at least 10 men in the jobs. Just 8 percent of the movies had that many women working in these key roles, but even fewer (4 percent) had as few as four men. Because some of these roles were handled by coed teams, there is another way to view female leadership among 2021’s top 250 films: 82 percent of them had no women directors, 72 percent no women writers, 94 percent no women cinematographers and 73 percent no women editors.
Because of the ongoing pandemic, for the second straight year Celluloid Ceiling also looked at female inclusion in these roles among the Digital Entertainment Group’s weekly Top 20 Watched at Home list, which includes U.S. digital sales, rentals (VOD excluding premium VOD), DVD and Blu-ray. Pre-2020 releases that made the list were not counted. Out of 92 total films (57 percent of which also were among the top 100 grossers), women occupied 20 percent of the key roles (up from 19 percent in 2020).