‘Barbie’ Broke Records, but Studios Employed Fewer Female Directors



Greta Gerwig‘s “Barbie” wasn’t just the year’s biggest box office winner. It also made history as the highest-grossing movie directed by a woman. Despite the film’s outsized success, major studios gave most of their biggest gigs to male filmmakers.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.  It found that women comprised just 16% of directors on the 250 top-grossing films, which was down from 18% in 2022. There were modest improvements the higher up the list of money-earners you climb — female filmmakers called the shots on 14% of the 100 top films, which was up from 11% in 2022.

The findings come as female filmmakers like Gerwig, “Salburn’s” Emerald Fennell, “Past Lives’s” Celine Song and “Priscilla’s” Sofia Coppola released some of the year’s buzziest and most acclaimed movies; and pop divas like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift topped the box office with concert films.

All that critical and commercial success hasn’t changed the employment picture. Indeed, things weren’t much brighter when it came to female talent in other key roles. Overall, women accounted for 22% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the 250 top-grossing films. That was a decline from 24% in 2022. Moreover, 75% of the top-grossing films employed 10 or more men in key behind-the-scenes roles, while just 4% employed 10 or more women. 

In descending order women comprised 26% of producers, 24% of executive producers, 21% of editors, 17% of writers, 14% of composers and 7% of cinematographers. Of these roles, women saw gains as composers on the top 250 films, improving by 6%. The number of women employed as producers, executive producers and writers all declined, while the percentage of female editors and cinematographers was roughly even with 2022.

“It’s the ultimate illusion, Greta Gerwig’s well-deserved triumph belies the inequality that pervades the mainstream film industry,” Dr. Martha Lauzen, the report’s author and the center’s founder and executive director, said in a statement. “The numbers tell the story. Behind-the-scenes gender ratios in Hollywood remain dramatically skewed in favor of men.”

The study found that on movies with at least one woman director, more women were hired for key behind-the-scenes roles than films with exclusively male directors. When women were in the directing chair, 61% of writers, 35% of editors, 10% of cinematographers and 26% of composers were female. On films with male directors, women accounted for 9% of writers, 18% of editors, 7% of cinematographers and 11% of composers.


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