Chloe Zhao broke artistic barriers at this year's Academy Awards with her realistic film, Nomadland. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Chloe Zhao broke artistic barriers at the 2021 Academy Awards with her film, Nomadland. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Can we call “cut” on this trend already?

New research shows that the number of women directors leading top-grossing films has once again declined. 

The latest edition of the Celluloid Ceiling Report, produced annually by experts at San Diego State University, found that women comprised just 12 percent of directors on 2021’s 100 highest-earning films. 

That stat is especially frustrating considering that, in 2020, women directors accounted for 16 percent of directors of top-grossing movies. And their work more than holds up – in fact, Chloé Zhao became the second woman to ever win Best Director at the Academy Awards for her work on 2020 drama “Nomadland.” Emerald Fennell was also nominated in the same category for “Promising Young Woman,” a psychological thriller also released in 2020.

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When the analysis expanded to the year’s top 250 films, a decline was also noted, albeit a considerably smaller one – of those films, 17 percent were directed by women in 2021, down from 18 percent in 2020.

The news wasn’t all bad, though. Last year, women made up 25 percent of those occupying higher-tier behind-the-scenes roles overall – writers, producers and editors, for example. In 2020, that figure was at 23 percent. 

 “The rise in the overall number is due to increases in the percentages of women working as executive producers and producers,” the report states.

And that’s why the decline in women directors on bigger-budget films matters – because as researchers note, women in leadership roles for these productions “employed higher percentages of women as directors, writers, and editors.”

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Eleanor Mayrhofer
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