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Report: Oscar Nominees Still Struggle with Gender Diversity Behind the Scenes

By / Feb 1, 2017 2017 Oscar nominee Ava Duvernay, shown with David Oyelowo and Colman Domingo—stars of her 2015 film "Selma." (Wikimedia Commons)

A new report from the Women’s Media Center found that just 1-in-5 behind-the-scenes Oscar nominees is a woman—putting a wrinkle on a year when on-screen diversity is well-reflected in the Academy Awards’ nominee list.

The Oscar nominations last week scored some big points for improved diversity on the screen, but as one watchdog points out, there’s still lots of work to be done behind the scenes.

A new report from the Women’s Media Center, released Monday, highlights that just 20 percent of the behind-the-scenes film production roles honored by the Academy involve women, a decline from prior years.

WMC notes that no female directors and just one writer received a nod this year. While the number of female producers honored rose to nine this year, there were a number of categories, such as cinematography and original screenplay, where women weren’t represented at all.

“We have a saying, ‘If you can see it, you can be it,’ but in the crucial behind-the-scenes non-acting roles, our ‘Women’s Media Center Investigation’ shows that what you see is 80 percent of all nominees are men,” WMC President Julie Burton noted in a news release. “Four out of five nominees are men—meaning male voices and perspectives are largely responsible for what we see on screen.”

One notable nominee specifically highlighted by the group is Ava DuVernay, who in 2014 became the first black female director to receive a best picture nomination. The Selma nominee received a nod this year in the documentary feature category for her film on mass incarceration, 13th.

But while the issue is significant at the awards ceremony, it also reflects issues in the broader industry. A study released [PDF] by the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film last year, The Celluloid Ceiling, found that women represented just 17 percent of the people working in significant behind-the-scenes roles—a situation that has remained somewhat stagnant since at least 1998.

The WMC infographic below highlights the scope of the problem in the major Oscar categories this year:

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WMC, founded in 2005 by Burton, is supported on its board by an array of well-known female icons, including Jane Fonda, Dee Dee Myers, and Gloria Steinem.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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