Should the Federal Government Help Solve Gender Inequality in Hollywood?

October 11, 2015

Several months ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) officially reached out to state and federal governments to investigate Hollywood gender inequality. Specifically, they sought help from agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about the “widespread exclusion of women directors from employment in directing episodic television and feature films.” After all, a study investigating who held behind-the-camera jobs in the top films of 2014 indicated that only 1.9% of directors were female, and 18 percent of first-time TV directors were women.

Well, the EEOC has agreed to investigate the matter. Starting next week, they will begin interviewing female directors regarding any discrimination they believe they’ve experienced. These interviews have the potential to result in a class-action lawsuit against Hollywood lead by the government. Before this, if a woman in the industry thought she’d been unfairly treated, she would have had to file an individual lawsuit, and risk being blacklisted.

It should be noted, the EEOC’s present inquiry does not look at women holding other Hollywood job titles. For example, the same 2014 research found only 11 percent of writers and 18.9 percent of producers were women; and when it came to speaking acting parts, a mere 28.1 percent went to women, and female lead roles or co-leads only went to 21 out of the 100 movies.

Many people feel this government involvement is a much needed step in advancing gender equality in the industry overall. For instance, actress, director, and producer Salma Hayek recently asserted at Variety’s Power of Women event, “The industry has neglected women and its evolution for many years. There’s also not writers, not producers, not directors that have the freedom to tell our story from our perspective.” But she remains hopeful that things are progressing, saying, “I think that we are in a different era now where I am very optimistic that things are going to change only because I think the industry is beginning to realize what an economic work force [women] are.”

On the other hand, many people have a hard time sympathizing with members of the Hollywood elite who tend to make exceptional money and yet seem to be complaining. They argue that this is a free country, and anybody can go out and make their own movies on their own terms and hire anyone they desire and assume the financial risks; ultimately, it’s the audiences who decide which projects profit or tank, so blaming the “men at the top” is a false premise. And some people feel that turning this into a federal matter is over the top.

What is your opinion? Are you pleased the feds are involved on behalf of gender equality, or are you left shaking your head wondering why the government needs to be involved with such issues?