ACLU Says Hollywood Discriminates Against Women, Seeks Inquiry Into Hiring Practices

May 13, 2015  |  

Hollywood is still dominated by men–and it’s for a reason. Women directors are still discriminated against in the film industry, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (and many actresses, who have spoken on the topic). The ACLU is calling for an inquiry into Hollywood’s hiring practices.

These dismal figures are fodder for the organizations’ compliant: Only four percent of the top-grossing films over the last dozen years were directed by women. As such, the ACLU has asked state and federal agencies to investigate the hiring practices of major Hollywood studios, networks, and talent agencies. According to the ACLU, there is widespread and intentional gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring female directors.

“Women directors aren’t working on an even playing field and aren’t getting a fair opportunity to succeed,” Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBT, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the A.C.L.U. of Southern California told The New York Times. “Gender discrimination is illegal. And, really, Hollywood doesn’t get this free pass when it comes to civil rights and gender discrimination,” she continued.

The move by the ACLU is landmark. Way back in 1960s, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held hearings about Hollywood and sought intervention by the Justice Department, which found employment discrimination. Even though a settlement was reached with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers and several unions, the measures to ensure equality where never fully enacted.

The ACLU is asking for action finally and has sent letters to the commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, in which the organization detailed statistical and anecdotal evidence of what it calls systemic “overt sex stereotyping and implicit bias.”

“Women directors are subjected to discriminatory practices, including recruiting practices that exclude them, failure to hire qualified women directors based on overt sex stereotyping and implicit bias and the use of screening mechanisms that have the effect of shutting women out,” the letter continued.

In the letters the ACLU ran down the proof.  University of Southern California study, for example, found that of the top-grossing 100 films from 2013 and 2014, just 1.9 percent were directed by women. “A Directors Guild of America analysis of 220 television shows consisting of 3,500 episodes broadcast in 2013 and 2014 found that 14 percent were directed by women. A third of all shows had no female director at all,” reports the Times.

The rights group even had a comeback for the oft-repeated claim by studio executives, that there are not many qualified female directors. Between 2002 and 2o14, a quarter of the films shown at the Sundance Film Festival were directed by women.

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