"Exhibiting You" - Story

Why So Few Women?

Where are the Women in Politics and Entertainment?: Share Your Thoughts With Girls' Club Entertainment

By: Girls' Club Entertainment
Other authors: Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Submitted: 08/14/2008

In the United States, entertainment and politics represent powerful, male-dominated industries with significant influence on how women are both defined by others and how they define themselves.

Politicians legislate, represent constituencies, and communicate a unifying American national identity. Actors and actresses—under the instruction of writers, directors and producers—literally perform gender on screen, defining and changing cultural norms around language, dress, body size and shape, and lifestyle.

These two spheres are deeply interconnected: the media informs the public and shapes their opinions, and good media coverage is an absolute necessity for a successful political campaign, not to mention a successful film or television career. Meanwhile, through legislation and policy, politicians have the power to regulate the nature and content of what we see in films and on television. Both American politics and American media have a transnational impact: their effects cross borders, transform economies and export identities, values and stereotypes.

There is a severe lack of women characters in entertainment: only 27 percent of speaking roles in top-grossing U.S. films are female, and this disparity is even more evident when you consider non-speaking characters as well. Behind the scenes women have limited power and representation: in the top 250 U.S. films of 2007, six percent of film directors were female, a decline from seven percent in 2006 and 11 percent in 2000.

In 2007, women comprised on average just 15 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, editors and cinematographers. No woman has ever won an Academy Award for Best Director, and only three have ever been nominated. Of the 176 Academy Awards given for Best Writing, only 10 have gone to solo women writers—10 more have been given to women with male co-writers. Disparities persist in pay as well. According to Forbes magazine, the average annual income of the top ten highest paid U.S. actresses is only 49 percent of their male counterparts’ average income.

Within domestic politics, women have made great inroads and yet hold less than a quarter of all legislative and executive positions at both the state and national levels. Only eight states have female governors; 16 percent of U.S. Senators are female; in the House of Representatives women hold just 16.3 percent of the seats. No woman has ever served as President of the United States.

If a democratic system is supposed to represent its constituency, how do we explain these numbers when 51 percent of the U.S. population is female? This becomes even more apparent when we compare the United States to other nations: in terms of women’s representation in national legislatures, the U.S. currently ranks 68th in the world, well behind Rwanda, Cuba, Uganda, Afghanistan, Iraq, China, North Korea, the United Kingdom and France.

We want to know what the I.M.O.W. community has to say about this. Why do you think there are so few women in U.S. entertainment and politics? What are the barriers to women’s success in these industries, and how were they created? And what can we do to change this?

Please take a moment to share your thoughts by commenting on this story or sending us a private message. Your input will guide us in the production of our film. Thank you for your help!

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