The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched an online petition yesterday addressed to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, urging these agencies to investigate gender disparities in the hiring of film and television directors.
According to the ACLU’s website: “We believe that the failure to hire women directors and give them a fair opportunity to succeed in the field is a civil rights issue. This is why the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and the ACLU of Southern California have a campaign demanding that our government launch an investigation into the systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and TV industry in violation of state and federal civil rights laws.”
Working members of the industry are invited to sign the petition here: https://action.aclu.org/secure/filmquality
On May 12, the ACLU sent letters to these three government agencies, outlining its evidence of dramatic disparities in the hiring of women directors in both television and big-budget films, bolstered by anecdotal accounts gathered from 50 women directors.
“Blatant and extreme gender inequality in this large and important industry is shameful and unacceptable,” said Melissa Goodman, director of the ACLU SoCal’s LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project. “The time has come for new solutions to this serious civil rights problem.”
Last year, 70 network shows – nearly a third – hired no women directors at all. The numbers for women remained static from the previous report. White men directed 69% of all television episodes analyzed.
“Women directors simply aren’t getting a fair opportunity to succeed, because of systemic discrimination,” said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “It’s time for our civil rights enforcement agencies to take action to ensure that women have a level playing field.”
The ACLU also cited estimates that women are well represented in prominent film schools such as USC, NYU and UCLA, with the number of female students roughly equal to the number of males. And yet, by some estimates, fewer women are working as film and television directors today than there were two decades ago. For example, in 2014, women were only 7% of directors on the top 250 grossing films. This number is 2% lower than it was in 1998.