After highs in 2020, the number of top-grossing films directed by women decreased in 2021, according to the latest Celluloid Ceiling report from San Diego State University.
Women comprised of 17 per cent of directors working across the 250 top-grossing films of 2021, down from 18 per cent in 2020, alongside representing 12 per cent of directors on the 100 top-grossing films of the year, a decline of four per cent on the year prior.
Despite Chloé Zhao becoming only the second woman in history to win the Best Director category of the Academy Awards, and female-led films like Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter receiving critical acclaim, the study’s researcher, Dr. Martha Lauzen, says this hasn’t converted to more women helming top films.
“Appearances can be deceiving. While Chloé Zhao won the Oscar last year for directing Nomadland, and Jane Campion is a front-runner in this year’s race for The Power of the Dog, the percentage of women directing films actually declined in 2021,” explains Dr. Lauzen.
“Basing our perceptions of how women are faring on the well-deserved fortunes of just a few high-profile women can lead us to inaccurate conclusions about the state of women’s employment.”
As the pandemic presents ongoing challenges to traditional theatres, the study analysed both box office grosses and films distributed through on-demand services, listed in the study as ‘Watch at Home,’ a category where women in general behind-the-scenes roles fared better. Women accounted for 20 per cent of all directors, writers, producers and editors working across watch at home films, an increase on 2020, with 10 per cent in directorial roles.
While directorial-specific numbers decreased, the overall percentage of women working behind the scenes on box office films increased by two per cent on 2020, to 25 per cent. The study believes this is due to an increase in women working in executive producer and producer roles across films.