“Feminist” was the buzzword in Hollywood in 2014: Emma Watson brought the United Nations to its feet with her speech on gender equality, Beyonce dazzled millions of VMA viewers with her unambiguous statement, Aziz Ansari broke it down for the unconverted on the Late Show with David Letterman. Media outlets kept close tallies on which celebrities embraced and eschewed the label, and headlines like “The 15 Most Feminist Moments of the [insert major event]” populated the media. Ladies like Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, and Reese Witherspoon kicked ass onscreen, while Shonda Rhimes took over our TVs. No one’s claiming Hollywood has achieved gender parity—but by and large, 2014 certainly looked like a giant step forward for the movement.
As is often the case, though, a look beyond the spotlight and behind the scenes tells a startlingly different story—one in which gender equity in the industry is back where it was 17 years ago. In 2014, women comprised a paltry 17 percent of all the people who worked behind the cameras—directors, producers, editors, writers, executive producers and cinematographers—on the top-grossing 250 movies, the same scant percentage as in 1998. The finding is from an annual report called The Celluloid Ceiling, conducted by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. Other disquieting numbers from her research include the fact that 93 percent of the films had no female directors, 78 percent had no female editors, 79 percent had no female writers, and 96 percent had no female cinematographers.