The report, details of which were revealed yesterday by the actor and activist Geena Davis, found that fewer than one third of all speaking roles went to women, who were also largely absent from positions of power. Only 22.5% of the overall fictional big screen workforce was shown to be made up of female employees, and fewer than 15% were portrayed as being employed as business executives, political figures, or in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics.
The study, from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, revealed “deep-seated discrimination and pervasive stereotyping of women and girls by the international film industry,” according to UN Women, which supported the study along with The Rockefeller Foundation and Davis’s Institute on Gender in Media.
Davis said: “The fact is: women are seriously under-represented across nearly all sectors of society around the globe, not just on-screen, but for the most part we’re simply not aware of the extent. In the time it takes to make a movie, we can change what the future looks like.
The actor added: “There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers? By casting droves of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), politics, law and other professions today in movies.”
The study, which analysed popular movies from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, United States, and United Kingdom, also found women were more likely to be depicted in a hypersexualised manner than men. Girls and women were twice as likely as boys and men to be shown either in sexualised attire, in the nude, or thin.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called the study a “wake-up call” for the global film industry. “With their powerful influence on shaping the perceptions of large audiences, the media are key players for the gender equality agenda,” she said. “With influence comes responsibility.”
The UN report does not mark the first occasion upon which the film industry has been accused of failing on gender terms. A 2013 report commissioned by the Sundance film festival suggested that female directors were struggling in mainstream Hollywood despite appearing in greater numbers in the field of independent film. In July this year, another study revealed that 75% of employees on blockbuster film sets are male.