Women remain scarce in the film industry's leadership roles. iStockPhoto.com // gorodenkoff

movies reboot gender divides

Barbie, the 2023 film directed by Greta Gerwig, broke records as the first billion-dollar blockbuster solely directed by a woman. Why are females in cinematic leadership roles so scarce? Film to date has largely been built through the eyes and minds of men, with only 2-6% (according to prior research) of all films at any time being led by female cinematographers and teams. Pete Jones and colleagues took a network analysis approach to investigating the make-up of cinematic teams in a recently published paper in Social Networks. The network data for this study comes from a database of nine years of Australian film and television productions containing 3,023 unique people working in 9,445 roles on 774 productions, as well as a survey of 582 camera department workers.

The research team found that, on the one hand, men in the film industry tend to work with men, preserve the same teams over time, and occupy and maintain many leadership roles within the film industry. Some men in leadership roles include women on their teams, but there are far fewer women than men to choose from within the industry. Women, on the other hand, while working alongside men, frequently jump from one team to the next post-production because most film crews are led by men who hire men instead of women. That the few women who gain access to leadership roles make sure to diversify their film teams highlights the fact that inequality in film is not merely due to unequal numbers of men and women, but is likely the result of exclusionary practices that reproduce male domination.

What we see on the big screen impacts how we perceive the world and our place in it. But the images we ingest have largely been conjured and brought into our theaters and homes by men. How might a world of cinema drafted and crafted by women influence our social worlds? Well, if Barbie’s smash success is any indication, audiences can’t wait to find out.