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One Reason That We Need Gender Equity in TV and Film

by Econlife Editor    •    Mar 10, 2014    •    333 Views

Our Monday Gender Issue:

Citing “gender inertia,” San Diego University professor Martha Lauzen said that: “If you have all white males working behind the scenes in the film industry, you’re going to get a whole lot of white males up on screen.”

When I read about Dr. Lauzen in a Maureen Dowd column, I went straight to her research on gender in film and TV. Seeing one number after another that displayed the male majority behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, I could not avoid the connection.

Her research also made me think of a gravitas gap between men and women. In programs from broadcast and cable TV, and from Netflix, a majority of female characters were in their 20s and 30s and only 16%  were in their 40s. Meanwhile, the men tended to be older. As for marital status, it was more likely that we knew when a women had a spouse. With occupational status though, we knew less for the women than for the men. Correspondingly, 39% of the characters seen at work were women and 61% were men.

Of course, the next step is the money. Dowd quoted Jodie Foster saying why male studio execs hire male directors. “I’m gonna hand over $60 million to somebody I don’t know. I hope they look like me.” And in a Forbes interview on the Hollywood gender pay gap, Sony co-chair Amy Pascal said that women earn less because they are “relegated to movies with a smaller budget or cast as the girlfriend.”

This is the interview:

And, here are some broadcast network TV gender gap numbers from Dr. Lauzen:

behind scenes comparison women by role broadcast network programs

And here are corresponding numbers for onscreen gender representation.

female characters broadcast nework programs

Perhaps all of this returns us to Schumpeter’s creative destruction. Always, seeing their position and power challenged, the establisment will resist the changes that diminish their stature. 

Sources and Resources: H/T to Maureen Dowd for alerting me to Dr. Lauzen’s research and the Forbes article on Amy Pascal.

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