Women directors saw employment decline in 2021, says US report

The latest Celluloid Ceiling report shows small gains for women across all production posts.

The number of women directors working on the year’s top grossing films dropped in 2021, even though the overall employment of women in key production posts increased slightly. 

Those are among the findings of the latest Celluloid Ceiling report tracking women’s employment in the 100 and 250 top-grossing films at the North American box office. 

Published by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, the report has monitored levels of women’s involvement in film production for the past 24 years. 

In 2021, the report shows that the number of women directors on the year’s films dropped from the historic high levels of 2020. Among the top 100 titles, women accounted for 12% of directors, down from 16% in 2020. And on the top 250 titles, the level was down from 18% to 17%. 

Overall, however, women accounted for 25% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers on the top 250 films (up from 23% in 2020) and 21% of those jobs on the top 100 (the same as 2020). 

The new report also found that 94% of the top 250 films had no women cinematographers, 92% had no women composers, 82% had no women directors, 73% had no women editors and 72% had no women writers. 

Sixty-one percent of the films monitored employed four or fewer women in the roles considered while only 4% had men in that range. 

Over the more than two decades during which the Celluloid Ceiling has been tracking, women’s employment in the industry has increased only marginally. 

From 1998 to 2021 the level of women in all behind-the-scenes roles increased just eight percentage points, from 17% to 25%; the increase was only four percentage points (from 13% to 17%) for women writers; and employment of women cinematographers edged up a mere two percentage points (from 4% to 6%).

Women directors saw employment decline in 2021, says US report
Women directors saw employment decline in 2021, says US report

The number of women directors working on the year’s top grossing films dropped in 2021, even though the overall employment of women in key production posts increased slightly. 

Those are among the findings of the latest Celluloid Ceiling report tracking women’s employment in the 100 and 250 top-grossing films at the North American box office. 

Published by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, the report has monitored levels of women’s involvement in film production for the past 24 years. 

In 2021, the report shows that the number of women directors on the year’s films dropped from the historic high levels of 2020. Among the top 100 titles, women accounted for 12% of directors, down from 16% in 2020. And on the top 250 titles, the level was down from 18% to 17%. 

Overall, however, women accounted for 25% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers on the top 250 films (up from 23% in 2020) and 21% of those jobs on the top 100 (the same as 2020). 

The new report also found that 94% of the top 250 films had no women cinematographers, 92% had no women composers, 82% had no women directors, 73% had no women editors and 72% had no women writers. 

Sixty-one percent of the films monitored employed four or fewer women in the roles considered while only 4% had men in that range. 

Over the more than two decades during which the Celluloid Ceiling has been tracking, women’s employment in the industry has increased only marginally. 

From 1998 to 2021 the level of women in all behind-the-scenes roles increased just eight percentage points, from 17% to 25%; the increase was only four percentage points (from 13% to 17%) for women writers; and employment of women cinematographers edged up a mere two percentage points (from 4% to 6%).

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