Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

This is the state of gender parity in the film industry in 2024

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Representation is important in all industries. Image: Unsplash/Jon Tyson

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Gender Inequality

  • Only 17% of nominees at the Oscars since 1929 have been women – and less than 2% of nominees were women of colour, new research shows.
  • Gender inequality at the Academy Awards is indicative of trends in the wider film industry, and society as a whole.
  • It will take another 131 years for full gender parity to be reached globally, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

Barbie was the highest-grossing film of 2023, earning $1.4 billion at the box office worldwide and receiving eight Oscar nominations.

It’s essentially a feminist film that takes a gentle pop at the patriarchy – and at its heart, has a monologue by actress America Ferrera that encapsulates the impossibility of living up to paradoxical societal expectations of womanhood.

But when the Academy Awards take place on Sunday, 10 March, the film will not be in the running for two major categories: Actress in a Leading Role for Margot Robbie, who played Barbie and Directing for Greta Gerwig, who brought the film to life on screen.

Only one of the five Best Director nominees is a woman this year. In fact, according to USC Annenberg's analysis of inclusion at the Academy Awards, there has only been one year (2021) in the past 95 when two women have been nominated in the category.

Since 1929, only eight nominees for Best Director have been women, out of 476, which is less than 2% – and half of those nominations have been since 2010.

Beyond Best Director, only 17% of the 13,445 nominees at the Oscars since 1929 have been women – and less than 2% of nominees were women of colour.

Infographic illustrating different percentages of women Academy Award winners.
In only one year (2021) have two women been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. Image: USC Annenburg

Gender equality at the movies

Gender inequality at the Oscars is indicative of trends in the wider film industry, and society as a whole, as the research shows.

Out of the 100 highest-grossing films for 2023, only 30 featured women and girls in lead and co-lead roles, down from 44 films in 2022—and the same number as 2010.

Dr Stacy L Smith, who led the research, said: “These numbers are more than just a metric of how often girls and women are in protagonist roles. They represent the career opportunities offered to women in the film industry.

“This year, we found that those opportunities have drastically constricted. Even by looking at the films that were moved to 2024 because of the strike, we cannot explain the collapse of women leads/co-leads in 2023 other than to say that this is an industry failure.”

In another study of the film industry, by gender equity coalition ReFrame, it noted there has been “no notable” improvement in gender balance.


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

The stamp of approval

The ReFrame ‘Stamp’ is given to “features that hire women or individuals of other underrepresented gender identities/expressions (including those who are trans, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming) in at least 50% of key roles”.

For the past four years, only 29% (and in one year 28%) of the 100 most popular films have achieved that stamp.

Only 3 out of the 10 Best Picture nominees at the Oscars meet the gender-balance criteria: Barbie, Anatomy of a Fall and Past Lives.

A third study, Re-Framing the Picture: An International Comparative Assessment of Gender Equity Policies in the Film Sector, looked at the film industries in the UK, Canada and Germany. It found that, at the current rate of progress, gender equity, where men occupy 50% of key creative positions, will only be achieved in 2215 in Canada, in 2085 in the UK, and 2041 in Germany.

“Much work still needs to be done to ensure equitable representation of women and gender minorities in key creative roles,” the study said. “Policies … need to adopt approaches that are intersectional, sustainable, and consider both short- and longer-term impacts.”

It will take another 131 years for full parity to be reached globally, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

Representation is important in all industries, but the roles portrayed by women on screen can shape societal views or reinforce negative gender stereotypes, which can set back progress towards achieving gender parity.

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