The number of women in lead roles in Hollywood has increased by only 2% in the past 10 years

Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney, and Gary Oldman at the Oscars 2018
Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney, and Gary Oldman at the Oscars 2018

A new study shows that Hollywood is still way behind when it comes to minority representation.

A July 2018 report from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative examined the cast and crew lists of 1 100 popular movies released between 2007 and 2017. 

In the 10 years studied, the number of female characters barely increased. In 2017, only 31.8% of onscreen characters were female—a 1.9% difference from 2007. And out of 2017’s top 100 films, there were only four leads who were women of colour. Women over 45 years old were also much less likely to make an appearance in a movie compared to men in the same age group.

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This means that women of all walks of life are poorly represented in your favourite Hollywood movies.

Things are also slightly worse for people of colour. Only 29.3% of speaking roles in the 1 100 movies were characters of colour.

Also, the study only examined characters’ races, it doesn’t even account for the fact that in some cases, minorities were portrayed by white actors, like when Emma Stone played a woman of Asian descent in 2015’s Aloha.

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The study also found than only 0.7% of characters in the 1 100 films studied represented the LGBTQ+ community. Out of those, more than half were gay men. The researchers also noted that there has been just one transgender character in the 400 most popular movies between 2014 and 2017.

But wait, it gets worse. 

People with disabilities? They were only represented in 2.5% of characters, and were mostly played by white and non-disabled actors.

But behind the camera it’s just as bad. white men still overwhelmingly dominate, with only 4.3% of the 1 100 movies directed by a woman, 5.2% helmed by a black director, and 3.1% directed by an Asian American.

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So what can Hollywood do to make it better? 

Well, remember what Frances McDormand said in her Best Actress acceptance speech at the 2018 Academy Awards? If white actors can start adding “inclusion riders” to their contracts, it will help minorities and people of colour.

Also, Stacy L. Smith, the Initiative’s founding director, told The Hollywood Reporter that increasing diversity in Hollywood comes down to consciously setting inclusion goals. "The most important thing is not thinking about this as storytelling," Stacy told THR, adding, "These are hiring decisions."

The fight to have representation of the audiences who actually watch these movies is far from over, but there are steps that Hollywood can take to change that. Here’s hoping it happens sooner rather than later. 

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