Film Forward

This Group Wants Equal Representation For Women In Film And Television — And They Have A Plan To Achieve It

"Now is the time to ... demand the opportunity for equal participation in our nation’s cultural narrative."

One group of 114 male and female leaders from various industries is well aware of — as most of us are — the lack of representation of women in Hollywood, and they have specific ideas about how to do something about it. The inaugural Women's Media Summit from back in April has spawned a seven-point plan aimed at closing, if not eliminating, the gender gap in entertainment both in front of and behind the camera.

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"The stories and images that emerge from U.S. entertainment media help define our national ethos. They contribute to the voice of our civilization and are influential in shaping virtually every aspect of our lives. With the expansions of online platforms, media is the most influential cultural form in the U.S.," the just-released white paper reads, courtesy of Deadline. "As a result, never before has it been more important for women to take their rightful place as equal participants to in and contributors in to our cultural narrative."

The Women's Media Summit hit readers with some tough off-the-screen statistics, such as the fact that "women hold only 3 percent of above-the-line and greenlighting positions in the media industry," and "women hold only 17 percent of influential positions behind the scenes as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers."

As for the on-the-screen statistics, they note that women "are vastly underrepresented as protagonists and lead characters in film and television." Statistics of the top 100 films from 2016 show that 29 percent of them had a female protagonist and 37 percent had a major female character. Compare that to the 2015-2016 television season, in which we saw 38 percent of the major characters in primetime shows being women.

Of course, even these harrowing statistics don't show the true extent to which women are represented in both film and television. They don't dive deep enough to show that women of color are underrepresented on and off the screen, and that even when women are represented they get portrayed in stereotypical ways, get depicted as oversexualized beings, or get less attention due to ageism. Things have certainly gotten better, but it isn't equal just yet — just look at their paychecks.

To combat this, the Women's Media Summit has proposed seven ways to move the needle in Hollywood, bulleted here and outlined in the full document:

1. Litigation against gender discriminatory practices.
2. Lobbying policymakers at the federal level to address persistent gender discrimination in entertainment media.
3. Tax credits to encourage the hiring of more female filmmakers.
4. Development of a financing network for female filmmakers (Media Incubator and Marketplace).
5. Development of a promotion fund to advertise films made by women (FundHer).
6. Marketing to educate the public about the issue of gender discrimination in Hollywood.
7. A consumer campaign to encourage viewers to vote with their dollars for gender equity in Hollywood.

Specifically, two programs have since been created as a means to carry out this comprehensive plan. The first is the Women's Media Action Coalition, a group that will implement the strategy, and GradeMyMovie.com, a tool to — you guessed it — grade movies based on gender (and racial) representation so people can support projects that feature both in the storytelling. (If you're wondering how Wonder Woman scored, you might be surprised.)

The goal would be a sort of label to accompany a film letting consumers know which films make the grade and to grow a base of 2 million people to adhere to the grading system by boycotting films that don't make the grade.

"Hollywood has kept women filmmakers shut out for decades because it is allowed to self-regulate and faces no effective oversight body," director Maria Giese, co-chair of the Women's Media Summit and the white paper's co-author, said. "Now is the time to stop relying on inside-industry solutions and demand the opportunity for equal participation in our nation's cultural narrative."

Cover image via Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

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