Hollywood is making progress when it comes to equality for women. Forty percent of last year’s 100 highest-grossing films sported a woman protagonist, up from 31 percent in 2018, according to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. Box office hits like Frozen 2, Little Women and Captain Marvel entertained with casts of fierce females. Women also stepped up behind the camera: over 10 percent of 2019’s top movies were directed by women, the highest number in over a decade. Of course, advancements must still be made. No female directors received Golden Globes nominations or acknowledgment at the 2020 Oscars, for example. Still, the film industry seems on a slow yet steady march toward closing the gender gap. Here’s how some top players are getting it done.

Lights, Camera, Action
We haven’t yet reached gender equality when it comes to the director’s chair, but Focus Films, an arthouse division of Universal Studios, is helping lead that charge. The majority of its 2020 offerings were made by women, including Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and Emerald Fennell’s aptly named Promising Young Woman. This year’s big-budget franchise features shot by powerhouse ladies include Niki Caro’s Mulan and Wonder Woman 1984 from Patty Jenkins. Equally exciting, one-fifth of all directors, writers, producers, editors and cinematographers on 2019’s top 100 grossing films were women, said a Celluloid Ceiling report.

View from the Top
Female presidents and CEOS are signing deals and doing their part to help shape the film industry. At Disney, the board of directors boasts figures that come close to gender parity with five men and four women. General Motors Chair Mary Barra and CVS Health executive VP Derica Rice are among them. Last June, Warner Brothers appointed its first woman CEO, Ann Sarnoff, the former president of BBC Studios America. With over 30 years of business and media experience, she was a savvy choice to oversee worldwide operations—including film and TV production, marketing and distribution—for the entertainment conglomerate. AMC likewise made news in March, after naming Kim Kelleher its new president of advertising and sales. More studios and production houses recruiting women means increased diversity when it comes to leadership styles and managerial points of view.

Women Behind the Curtain
Behind every A-list movie star is an agent or manager who helped propel a fledgling acting career into the mainstream stratosphere. Though men once led this field almost exclusively, Hollywood’s top four talent agencies—Creative Artists Agency, ICM Partners, United Talent Agency and William Morris Endeavor—are now witnessing a diversification shift as more women push to join the ranks. The current fierce female foursome at ICM includes Lorrie Bartlett, recently named to the company’s board of directors, and also the rep for 2019 Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Regina King. Hildy Gottlieb, who manages The Favourite star and two-time BAFTA winner Olivia Colman. Toni Howard, whose client Samuel L. Jackson is the highest-grossing actor of all time. And Kathleen Remington, promoted to partner in 2018 as part of an ongoing push to achieve 50-50 balance among senior leadership.

Like all movements, the fight for gender equality in the film industry won’t be won overnight and there’s still a long way to go. The first step, of course, is an awareness of the problem. The conversation has been sparked and change can be seen both onscreen and behind the scenes. In Hollywood, the future is looking more female.

Artine Malyan
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