Pin It
Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland
Chloé Zhao’s NomadlandCourtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Women directed a record number of films in 2020, a new study finds

Still, only 16% of directors working on the 100 highest-grossing films were female

A new study, run by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, has found that a record number of films were helmed by female directors in 2020. Of the top 100 grossing films, the report states that women accounted for 16% of directors, up from 12% in 2019, and a paltry 4% in 2018.

Clearly, this shows that there’s still a lot of work to be done, despite the upward trend. The Celluloid Ceiling report – which has been published annually for two decades – also notes that only 21% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on last year’s top 100 films were female (up one percentage point from 2019).

67% of films in 2020 employed between zero women and four women in top, behind-the-scenes roles, the study continues, while 70% employed 10 or more men in the same roles. “This imbalance is stunning,” says Dr. Martha Lauzen, who oversees the study, via Variety.

“The good news is that we’ve now seen two consecutive years of growth for women who direct,” Lauzen adds. “This breaks a recent historical pattern in which the numbers trend up one year and down the next. The bad news is that fully 80% of top films still do not have a woman at the helm.”

Of course, 2020 was very different for everyone in Hollywood. Though Chloé Zhao’s acclaimed, Frances McDormand-starring Nomadland was released last year, for example, her Marvel movie Eternals has been pushed back – along with another Marvel production, directed by Cate Shortland – to 2021 due to COVID-19. The Center has accounted for the pandemic’s interruptions by also tracking women’s employment on films that made Digital Entertainment Group’s Watched at Home Top 20 Chart. Of those films, women made up just 19% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers.

Last year, the Best Director nominations for the 2020 Oscars also made the ongoing imbalance all too clear, with a list made up entirely of men. A number of female filmmakers, including Greta Gerwig, have since called out the industry for its lack of diversity, while Natalie Portman appeared at the February ceremony in a cape embroidered with the names of snubbed female filmmakers.