Has DEI progress stalled in one of America’s most progressing institutions? Several years after the #MeToo movement upended Hollywood, USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s annual survey of women and people of color as directors of top-grossing films is beginning to look like a bell curve.
The 2022 survey, led by Annenberg’s Dr. Stacy L. Smith, revealed that the ranks of women directors fell for the second year in a row — to 9 percent — after peaking in 2020 with 15 percent.
The percentage of directors from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups also dipped in 2022 to just over 20 percent compared to a 15-year high of 27.3 percent in 2021. Within that group, women of color still make up the smallest minority.
Across 1,488 films between 2007 and 2022, the overwhelming majority — 1,329 (just over 80 percent) — were directed by white men; 231 by underrepresented men (14 percent); 72 were directed by white women (4.4 percent), and just 21 (1.3 percent) were directed by underrepresented women. Of the major U.S. film studios, Universal Pictures, which has been led by Donna Langley since 2013, had the best track record among female and underrepresented directors. Warner Bros. — home of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” — was a close second.
The lack of diversity among top-grossing film directors does not replicate in other sectors of the entertainment industry: about 38 percent of episodic TV directors, and 41.8 percent of narrative independent film director were women.
“Five years after #MeToo exploded and two years following the murder of George Floyd, Hollywood has evidenced little change for women and underrepresented directors — particularly women of color,” Smith said in a statement. “Film distributors and studios as a whole must do more to advance inclusion in this critical behind-the-scenes role. Perhaps executives should embrace a mentality described by Taylor Swift: ‘It’s me, I’m the problem.’”