Our Latest Study
Streaming Women: Representation and Employment in Original U.S. Films Released by Streaming Services in 2022
In 2022, more original U.S. films on major streaming services featured female than male protagonists. 49% (49.4%) of films featured sole female protagonists, 38% (38.3%) of films featured sole male protagonists, and 12% (12.3%) of films had ensembles. Females comprised 44% (43.8%) of major characters, and 40% (40.1%) of all speaking characters. The report also considers the representation of women in behind-the-scenes roles. In 2022, women comprised 26% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. By role, women accounted for 8% of cinematographers, 22% of directors, 23% of writers, 27% of producers, 29% of executive producers, and 30% of editors. The study reports the findings of a content analysis of over 1,800 characters and more than 1,100 behind-the-scenes credits on original U.S. films released by Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max and Netflix in 2022. It is the only study currently available that provides 2022 data for the major streaming companies.
It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top Grossing U.S. Films of 2022
In 2022, 33% of films featured female protagonists, up 2 percentage points from 31% in 2021. Women comprised 38% of major characters, up 3 percentage points from 35% in 2021. Females accounted for 37% of all speaking characters, up 3 percentage points from 34% in 2021. 80% of films featured more male than female characters. Only 11% of films had more female than male characters, and 9% of films featured equal numbers of female and male characters. Female characters were younger than their male counterparts, diminishing in alarming numbers around the age of 40. Female characters in speaking roles experienced a precipitous drop from their 30s to their 40s. 36% of female characters were in their 30s but only 14% were in their 40s. The percentage of female characters in their 40s was actually lower in 2022 (14%) than in 2015 (20%). Regarding race and ethnicity, Black females comprised 21.6% of all major female characters in 2022, up from 16.4% in 2021. The percentage of major Latina characters declined from 12.8% in 2021 to 7.0% in 2022, and the percentage of major Asian and Asian American females declined from 10.0% in 2021 to 6.6% in 2022.
The Celluloid Ceiling: Employment of Behind-the-Scenes Women on Top Grossing U.S. Films in 2022
The Celluloid Ceiling has tracked women’s employment on the 250 top (domestic) grossing films for the last 25 years. Having monitored credits for a quarter of a century, the project provides the longest-running and most comprehensive record of women’s behind-the-scenes employment available. Taking the long view, the percentage of women working as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers increased a scant 7 percentage points from 17% in 1998 to 24% in 2022. This represents a decline of 1 percentage point from 25% in 2021. By role, women comprised 18% of directors, 19% of writers, 25% of executive producers, 31% of producers, 21% of editors, and 7% of cinematographers last year. Films with at least one woman director employed substantially more women in other key behind-the-scenes roles than films with exclusively male directors. The report also includes the percentages of women working on the top 100 grossing films.
Boxed In: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes on Broadcast and Streaming Television in 2021-22
In 2021-22, females comprised 50% of major characters on streaming programs and 48% on broadcast network programs. Streaming programs also had a slightly higher percentage of female characters in speaking roles than broadcast programs (47% vs. 45%). While broadcast network programs had higher percentages of Black female (28%) and Latina (7%) characters in major roles than programs on streaming services (21% and 3%, respectively), streaming programs included a higher percentage of Asian and Asian American females than those on the broadcast networks (15% vs. 10%). At about the age of 40, female characters begin to disappear in substantial numbers from both broadcast and streaming programs. On broadcast programs, the percentage of major female characters plummeted from 42% in their 30s to 15% in their 40s. Similarly, on streaming programs the percentage of major females dropped from 33% in their 30s to 14% in their 40s. Behind the scenes, streaming programs employed higher percentages of women than broadcast network programs. Women comprised 37% of individuals working in key behind-the-scenes roles on streaming programs but 31% on broadcast network programs. This includes creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers. More specifically, women accounted for 38% of executive producers on streaming programs but 29% on broadcast programs. Women comprised 29% of directors working on streaming programs but 18% on broadcast programs.
Indie Women: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in U.S. Independent Film, 2021-22
In 2021-22, women comprised 39% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on independent films screening/streaming at high-profile film festivals in the U.S. Women accounted for 43% of those working in key behind-the-scenes roles on documentaries and 34% of those working on narrative features. Fests screened/streamed an average of 6 narrative films directed by at least one woman but an average of 10 films directed by men. However, the festivals streamed/screened almost equal numbers of documentaries directed by women (an average of 10) as by men (an average of 11). The study also reports the percentage of women working as composers in independent film. Overall, women comprised 17% and men 83% of composers. Female composers fared better on documentaries (20%) than narrative features (13%).
Thumbs Down 2022: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters
First conducted in 2007, Thumbs Down considers the representation of individuals working for print, radio/television, and online outlets in the U.S. and whose reviews appear on the Rotten Tomatoes website. The study found that male reviewers now outnumber female reviewers by more than 2 to 1. In the opening months of 2022, men comprised 69% (69.2%), women 31% (30.5%), and nonbinary individuals 0.3% of reviewers. For women, this represents a decline of 4 percentage points from 35% in 2020. Further, male critics outnumber female critics in every job category, type of media outlet, and film genre considered. The findings indicate that men reviewers award slightly higher average quantitative ratings to films with male protagonists than women reviewers, films directed by women comprise a smaller proportion of reviews by men than women, and that when reviewing films directed by someone of their own gender, male and female critics are more likely to mention the name of the director in their review. Over the years, Thumbs Down has considered over 29,000 reviews written by more than 1,900 reviewers. This year’s edition examined more than 4,000 reviews written by over 330 individuals. It is the most comprehensive and longest-running study of women’s representation and impact as film reviewers available.
Living Archive: The Celluloid Ceiling
Since 1998, the annual Celluloid Ceiling study has tracked women’s employment in the core crafts of filmmaking, including directing, writing, producing, editing, and cinematography. For the first time, the Living Archive makes the findings from every year of the study available. The takeaway from this report is that despite the countless panels, repeated calls for voluntary programs, and promises of change, the percentages of women have remained relatively stable in the majority of the roles considered. The percentage of women cinematographers remained virtually unchanged over the 22 years of the study (4% in 1998, 5% in 2019). The percentage of women working as producers climbed just 3 percentage points, from 24% in 1998 to 27% in 2019, with similar increases for executive producers (18% in 1998 to 21% in 2019), and editors (20% in 1998 to 23% in 2019). The percentage of women directors rose a scant 4 percentage points, from 9% in 1998 to 13% in 2019. Women writers experienced the largest gains, with their percentage rising 6 points from 13% in 1998 to 19% in 2019.
The Celluloid Ceiling II: Production Design, Production Management, Sound Design, Key Grips, and Gaffers
For over a decade, The Celluloid Ceiling study has tracked women’s representation as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers on the top 250 domestic grossing films. In an effort to assess the larger picture of women’s employment in film, this study monitored their representation as production designers (20%), production managers/production supervisors (25%/44%), sound designers/supervising sound editors (5%/5%), key grips (1%), and gaffers (1%).
The study analyzed behind-the-scenes employment of 1,318 individuals working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2008 with combined box office grosses of approximately $9.4 billion.
Women @ the Box Office
This study asked two basic questions: how do films with at least one woman working in a key behind-the-scenes role fare at the box office when compared to those employing only men in the same roles, and how do films featuring female protagonists fare at the box office when compared to those featuring males.
Examining the top 100 worldwide grossing films of 2007, the study found that when women and men filmmakers have similar budgets for their films, the resulting box office grosses are also similar. In other words, the sex of filmmakers does not determine box office grosses.
In addition, when the size of the budget is held constant, films with female protagonists or prominent females in an ensemble cast earn similar box office grosses (domestic, international, opening weekend) and DVD sales as films with male protagonists. Because films featuring male protagonists have larger budgets, they earn larger box office grosses. However, the differences in box office grosses are not caused by the sex of the protagonist but by the size of the budget. Films with larger budgets generate larger grosses, regardless of the sex of the protagonist.