Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Only 5 women have ever been nominated for an Oscar for Best Director

Director Kathryn Bigelow presents director Rithy Panh, whose Cambodian film "The Missing Picture" is nominated in the Foreign Language Film category, with a nomination certificate at the 86th Academy Awards Foreign Language Nominee Reception at Ray's and Stark Bar on the LACMA Campus in Los Angeles, February 28, 2014. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) - GM1EA31176301

Director Kathryn Bigelow is - to date - the only female winner. Image: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

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Education, Gender and Work

  • This year’s Oscar nominees for best director were all male.
  • In the 90-year-plus history of the Academy Awards, just five female filmmakers have been nominated in the category.
  • Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to have won best director – in 2010 for her Iraq War film The Hurt Locker.

The nominees for best director at this year’s Academy Awards walked the red carpet, prepared their acceptance speeches and sat in the media spotlight awaiting the winner’s announcement.

Not for the first time, there were no women among them.

In the more than 90-year history of the Oscars, only five women have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, with one female winner, in 2010.

Have you read?

UN Women highlighted the extent of this gender gap, posting the below graphic on Twitter.

Oscars gender parity best director
Number of Oscar nominations for best director Image: UN Women

At the inaugural ceremony in 1929, the best director nominees for the Academy Award of Merit – the “Oscar” nickname wasn’t officially adopted until 10 years later – were all male. Lina Wertmüller was the first female director to be nominated, 48 years later.

It wasn't until another 17 years later that Jane Campion became the second woman to get the nomination for best director, for The Piano, a 1993 period drama set in New Zealand.

In total, only five women have been nominated for best director, including Sofia Coppola (2004), Greta Gerwig (2018) and Kathryn Bigelow, who in 2010 became the only woman to date to win best director in the history of the awards, for her Iraq War film The Hurt Locker.

Oscar winners, director Katheryn Bigelow (L) for the film
Katheryn Bigelow (L) was the first woman to win Best Director Image: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
The 100-year gap

Research has found women in Hollywood earn on average around $1.1m less than male actors with similar experience – a 25% pay gap.

It’s a divide present in many industries in different parts of the world. And although gender equality rates are improving in many countries, the global gender divide persists.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 predicts it will take 99.5 years to reach gender parity. The report, which benchmarks 153 countries on their progress towards gender parity, presents a mixed situation worldwide.


What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

Female representation on company board of directors in countries like France, Iceland, Norway and New Zealand has reached more than 30% share, for example, while women have a lower presence on company boards in the Russian Federation (7%), Japan (5.3%) and Indonesia (3.3%).

This reflects the importance of developing policy initiatives to address the underlying causes of gender equality, to encourage women into the workforce and into leadership positions.

The report shows a positive link between women’s participation in the labour force and the ability of an economy to thrive. Developing and embracing female talent has a major impact on the growth, competitiveness and future-proofing of companies and the markets in which they operate.

After Western Europe, North America is the region with the second-smallest gender gap, but the gender gap persists in certain industries, including Hollywood filmmaking.

A 2012 Los Angeles Times study revealed the Academy members voting for Oscar winners were nearly 94% caucasian, 77% male and had a median age of 62.

Initiatives like the Female Film Force in the UK and Ireland aim to encourage women behind the camera, by offering incentives and funding to create their own films.

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