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The EEOC to talk with female directors about gender bias in Hollywood

Photo: Mad Men (AMC)
Photo: Mad Men (AMC)

Sometimes, it seems, the system does work. After years of growing frustration with the lack of female directors in Hollywood, last May the ACLU reached out to state and national agencies to request an investigation into the film and TV industry’s “systemic failure” to hire female directors. Now, according to IndieWire, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has begun contacting female directors to learn more about discrimination in the industry.

The EEOC reportedly sent letters asking female directors to meet with them in October, with the guarantee of confidentiality. Those personal experiences will be used in conjunction with the abysmal stats about female directors: Women directed only 4.7 percent of studio films from 2009-20013 and 10 percent of independent ones in that same period. Only 1.9 percent of the top 100 grossing films in 2013 and 2014 were helmed by women. And women directed only 14 percent of the 3,500 episodes of television that aired in the 2013-2014 season.

But this news is also a reminder that change takes time. This push against discrimination was started by director Maria Giese, who actually met with the EEOC back in 2013 but was told there wasn’t much the commission could do for her. She then took her cause to the ACLU, who eventually finalized their own review, which, in turn, has now pushed the EEOC to act—two years and seven months after Giese first met with them.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time the EEOC has gotten involved with Hollywood discrimination. Back in 1969, the commission held a one-day hearing that concluded Hollywood employment practices were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and cited discrimination at seven major studios as well as the Association Of Motion Picture And Television Producers. However, the EEOC’s head Clifford Alexander, Jr. was later pressured to resign by the Nixon administration for making waves, which went a long way toward stalling progress on the issue.

With the help of the internet, however, concerns about discrimination are now much more well-known and far harder to sweep under the rug. Ava DuVernay’s snub at the Oscars for her work on Selma prompted public outcry about the way female directors are treated compared to their male counterparts. People are also more aware that even as studios continue to place promising male indie directors in charge of some of their biggest blockbusters (including Gareth Edwards, Marc Webb, Jon Watts, Colin Trevorrow, Josh Trank, the Russo Brothers, James Gunn, and Jordan Vogt-Roberts), female indie directors are seldom given the same opportunity. Instead, we have instances where Michelle MacLaren is fired from Wonder Woman for “lacking experience” despite working on both Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

Still, it’s encouraging to see the EEOC finally taking Giese’s complaints seriously. Hopefully the organization will prep for its meetings by browsing the Tumblr Shit People Say To Women Directors.

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