Women In Hollywood Are Running The Show & Beating The Odds Slowly But Surely
There's a lot to read about the rampant sexism in Hollywood industries that shuts women out discriminately — I know, because I write a lot of it. And it isn't just about the cash money, although it has been revealed time and time again that even the highest profile actresses on screen were reportedly being stiffed on their paychecks. Yes, the statistics are unequivocally depressing, and, no, I don't mean to imply that gender disparity in Hollywood is anywhere closer to closing the gap. But there are plenty of women in Hollywood breaking boundaries and paving a path for other women to hopefully follow, if Hollywood will let them.
The University of Southern California released a study titled "Inequality in 700 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race, & LGBT Status from 2007 to 2014," revealing what we sadly already knew: that Hollywood still greatly favors the stories of white, heterosexual cis men. And highlighting the following women is by no means an attempt to disprove those dismal results, which showed that, for example, in 2014, only 4.7 percent of directors were African-American.
However, it is important that we celebrate the women in Hollywood that are beating the adverse firewalls that want to keep them from doing their thing. There are three particular fields where women are forging ahead and making their marks, so let's salute them.
Running The Show
The golden age of television has seen a new kind of animal emerge: the showrunner. The names most associated with the esteemed, catch-all title that describes someone who creates, writes, directs, produces, etcetera, et. al. are mostly male — think Vince Gilligan from Breaking Bad and Matthew Weiner from Mad Men, and, of course, Joss Stone from just about everything. But, as Refinery 29 points on in their great piece about female showrunners, it looks like the tides are finally turning. The biggest names in Hollywood right now that are literally running the show(s) are women cut from the most incredible cloth, the kind that allows them to do a million things at once.
Leading the pack: Shonda Rhimes, of course, with her three-hour Shondaland block on ABC with shows How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal and the legendary Grey's Anatomy. Then, there's Jenji Kohan, the showrunner of Orange Is The New Black who got her phenomenal career start with Weeds. She was on the cover of Variety for their August edition, which explored the voracious new talented women in Hollywood that are forming a sisterhood of showrunners. Rhimes and Kohan share company with Girls showrunner Jenni Konner, who made a point to celebrate on Twitter last year that all of the 2015 Golden Globe-nominated comedy/musical shows had female showrunners.
There's also Michelle King from The Good Wife, Michelle Ashford from Masters Of Sex, Mindy Kaling from The Mindy Project, and Jennie Synder Urman, from the new and critically-acclaimed CW series Jane The Virgin, to name a fair few. As Rhimes said to Variety: "Gender has nothing to do with this job. Either you can write or you can't. Either you can run a show or you can't." And it looks like these women are setting the bar for absolutely can.
At The Top
A remarkable number of network heads in Hollywood are women, a fact that pleasantly surprised me — something that doesn't often happen with Hollywood news. Some of the most powerful networks are run by women, and thank god for that. If you don't know Bonnie Hammer's name, you should: she's the chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Group who was named The Hollywood Reporter's most powerful woman in Hollywood, and she just turned 65. She meditated in Fortune about how she refuses to accept that she's "past the prime" at her age, and that she has earned her success through and through in an inspirational message:
To put it bluntly, I feel relevant and valuable and I am struggling to understand why, when women reach age 65, they encounter an invisible barrier of perception that says it’s time to walk away. Shouldn’t we have a choice in the matter? Shouldn’t our experience and energy be worth more?
Hammer isn't the only powerful woman at the top of a huge conglomerate; she's joined by other formidable women like Donna Langley, the chairman of Universal Pictures, Dana Walden, chairmen and CEO of the Fox Entertainment Group, and Nina Tassler, chairman of CBS (that's right, she's Stephen Colbert's new boss).
Shaping The Characters
Call it a phenomenon or an anomaly in Hollywood, but, miraculously, casting directors tend to be female. Casting directors are often looked over, but their nuance and skill are crucial to the success (or failure) of a quality film or television show. One of the biggest names in casting right now is Jennifer Euston, who has won two Primetime Emmys for her work casting the Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black, and her previous work on shows like Veep, Girls, and even Law & Order. In an interview with NPR the week before the Emmys, Euston said what we're all thinking about diversity in television: "It's not a trend. It's evolutionary. And it's successful." Well, duh!
She follows in a long line of extremely successful female casting directors in Hollywood. Two of the most famous were honored in the 2013 HBO documentary Casting By: Marion Dougherty and Lynn Stalmaster, who were responsible for launching the careers of the likes of James Dean and Dustin Hoffman. Dougherty even discovered the Al Pacino. Dougherty described her talent for discovering talent as a "gut reaction."
Though Hollywood remains dominated by men, these women Give Me Hope that progress is being reached (everrr so slowly). Women are carving out their own niches and spaces in Hollywood, and hopefully, will be running the whole show soon.