We are all aware of the uneven playing field women have in Hollywood when it comes to representation, pay and diversity. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled "Age, Gender, and Compensation: A Study of Hollywood Movie Stars" found that for female movie stars, pay generally decreases when they reach the age of 34. As for representation, in 2015, women made up just 22 percent of protagonists in the top 100 domestic films, according to San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film. The male-dominated landscape of film and TV is an unfortunate reality — but that's not to say that women haven't taken on important roles in changing this reality, and making Hollywood a more equal place for all.
Women of every age are working to make these efforts, but it's worth noting how millennials, especially, are doing some hugely important work. As we celebrate Women's History Month this March, take a look at the history the below actors, writers, directors, and producers are making in the industry by speaking out and being unapologetically themselves. These ladies are changing the landscape in huge ways, and proving that millennials can enact serious change.
1. Issa Rae
If you don’t know Rae’s name yet, you should. She is the creator of the hit web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which first premiered in 2011. Rae started her reign on YouTube, but now captures the millennial Black lifestyle in her HBO comedy series Insecure. She has made it a mission to showcase the importance of being unapologetically Black through self-love, intelligence, and confidence in all of her works. She is, without a doubt, one the strongest role models of the '00s era in entertainment, and completely represents the life of an “Awkward Black Girl.”
2. Gina Rodriguez
Rodriguez, who won a Golden Globe for her role as Jane in the CW show Jane The Virgin, has never shied away from talking about the prejudices Latino performers face in Hollywood. “I decided to start a movement and speak from the perspective of a Latina American who desires to see more Latinos on screen. There are 55 million Latinos in this country and although we all come from various backgrounds our unity can make a movie explode at the box office or a TV show soar to the highest viewers possible,” she explained on Instagram about her efforts. She also started a foundation called We Will, which has already raised millions of dollars to support women in the arts.
3. Constance Wu
Wu plays Jessica Huang on ABC's Fresh Off the Boat, a show based on a memoir about an Asian family who immigrated to the United States in the '90s. This role has become one of Wu's biggest and a platform for her to talk about the exclusion of East Asian actors from the Hollywood scene. In an interview with New York, Wu explained that casting for Asian actors needs to go far beyond what it currently is. “It’s barely getting better. Maybe because they’re [Hollywood executives] operating from a fear mentality. But I want other Asian Americans to have the opportunities, too. I don’t want myself to be the only one who is getting stuff."
4. Amandla Stenberg
Remember when the first Hunger Games movie came out and people were bent that Amandla Stenberg, a young Black girl, was cast as Rue? Since then, Stenberg has made it her mission to highlight the injustices young Black millennials experience at every opportunity she gets. In 2015, at age 16, Stenberg called out Kylie Jenner’s constant cultural appropriation and made a video that went viral called "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows," which eloquently talked about the racist generalizations of Black appropriation. It takes a lot of guts to speak out about the unjust experiences Black millennials face everyday, but Stenberg has become a face of the "woke" movement for young Black people making a change in this country.
5. Jennifer Lawrence
Lawrence has become the Julia Roberts of millennial culture. Thanks to The Hunger Games saga, she became a household name, and she's starred in the X-Men films, Silver Linings Playbook, Passengers, American Hustle, and many other popular movies. Over the years, she has been an advocate for body positivity in film roles and in Hollywood. "I had a conversation with somebody about the struggles with weight in the industry — I know that's something I talk nonstop about," Lawrence said in a Teen Vogue interview. "And they were saying, 'All of the main movie stars aren't very underweight.' I said, 'Yeah, because once you get to a certain place [in your career], people will hire you. They just want you to be in the movie, so they don't care.' It's more about the struggle for the actors and actresses who haven't made it to a certain place." Speaking the truth.
6. Rowan Blanchard
The former star of the Disney Channel show Girl Meets World, Blanchard is a staunch supporter of intersectional feminism. At just 15, she frequently expresses her views on sexism and feminism in the media; just last year, she opened up about discovering her sexuality and how she did not want to label herself under one societal sexual category. In 2015, Blanchard took to Instagram to address the issues of "white feminism" and the treatment of LGBTQ communities, saying, "To only acknowledge feminism from a one-sided view when the literal DEFINITION is the equality of the sexes is not feminism at all... we need to be talking about this more. Discussion leads to change."
7. Yara Shahidi
“How can there be parity or the belief that we are valued similarly if we are still being perceived and perceiving others as a tired stereotype or as one-dimensional?” Shahidi said during an awards speech. The Black-ish actor is using her platform to speak out about the injustices women face, Hollywood stereotypes, and the challenges for people of color as much as possible. She's also been very vocal about Trump's Muslim Ban, stating on Instagram "Immigrants don't threaten safety-stereotypical narratives that promote hate do." I wish I was as "woke" as she is at just 16.
8. Yvonne Orji
Orji is a rising star who has no reservations about sharing her faith and stance on virginity. The 33-year-old Insecure star shared in 2016 that she was saving herself for marriage due to her religion, saying, “It comes out, I don’t hide it. The same way people know they’ve had a one-night stand, you can say that so I can this,” in an interview with The Breakfast Club. Orji's choice to speak out about her beliefs is inspiring for of those who follow her or have similar views.
The fearless 20-year-old doesn’t shy away from speaking up against injustice, whether it be photoshopping young women's bodies or racial stereotypes adhered to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Zendaya has challenged a new generation to always be aware of societal issues. In 2015, after E!’s Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic made a critical comment about Zendaya’s dreadlocks, the actor responded by tweeting about the detriments of racial stereotypes. Later, Mattel even created a Zendaya Barbie doll that replicated the star's natural dreaded hair.
These women are just the few of the many who are working to make Hollywood a more equal place. Hopefully, if people pay attention and support the works of women such as these, the entertainment business will see the drastic change that it needs.