Shit is about to hit the fan, and we couldn’t be any happier about it. Hollywood may finally be held accountable for their sexist treatment of female filmmakers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “is currently in settlement talks with the major studios to resolve charges that they systemically discriminated against women directors,” Deadline reports. The importance of this case cannot be overstated. The outcome has the potential to dramatically change the composition of the film and TV industry. At long last, women directors have a chance to get their due.
“Every one of the major studios has received a charge contending that they failed to hire women directors,” a source told Deadline. This doesn’t surprise us, or anyone else who has been keeping track of the studios’ dismal track records when it comes to hiring women directors. Female filmmakers don’t get the same opportunities as male ones — and this problem may finally be dealt with legally.
It was back in October of 2015 that the EEOC launched an investigation into Hollywood’s discriminatory hiring practices that favored men over women, “but the investigation is now over and has moved into the settlement phase,” Deadline writes. Just to clarify, what this means is that the EEOC has most likely filed commissioners charges which is what happens when there is not a single or named plaintiffs and the EEOC deems the charges are worth pursuing. This is what the ACLU had asked the EEOC to do. The step after the charges are filed is the settlement discussions. If the settlement discussions break down, they a suit could be filed.
Here’s a comment from Melissa Goodman, Director LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU who has been working diligently on this for about 2 years:
“EEOC charges are, by definition, secret so we are not in a position to confirm that the EEOC has issued Commissioners Charges against every major studio. What I can say is that, if this news is true, it would not surprise me and we are elated by this historic action. If true, the EEOC has done precisely what we asked of them and where we thought the evidence would point them: that women directors face systemic barriers to getting jobs, that every major studio is engaged in gender discrimination, and that they need to be held accountable and change their ways.”
Deadline reports that the Directors Guild (DGA) “tried to get the studios to embrace a program similar to the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule,’ which was meant to encourage teams to consider candidates of color for top coaching positions. During the DGA’s contract negotiations in December, the guild pressed the producers to adopt a similar rule that would have required producers to interview women and minority candidates as part of the hiring process for directing jobs.”
The companies declined to discuss the proposal, and cited “legal reasons.” Now Deadline has confirmed that these “legal reasons” stemmed from the fact that the studios are in settlement talks with the EEOC. The studios waited far too long to address this problem, and now they’re going to have to pay for their mistake(s).
If all this is true, this is historic in the road towards equality for women directors along the lines Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to be named Best Director at the Academy Awards back in 2010.
When the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) first asked EEOC to investigate whether Hollywood is violating Title VII by not hiring more women, Bigelow released a statement to Time. “I have always firmly believed that every director should be judged solely by their work, and not by their work based on their gender,” she said. “Hollywood is supposedly a community of forward thinking and progressive people, yet this horrific situation for women directors persists. Gender discrimination stigmatizes our entire industry. Change is essential. Gender neutral hiring is essential.”
We need to keep watch of this. The fact that this leaked is surprising and could be a tactic by the EEOC to raise more awareness of the issue in light of a new and not very receptive administration on these issues. It could be the DGA looking to take credit for trying to get this into the negotiations. It could be studios trying to avoid any #oscarssomale actions (this I think is less likely.) We just don’t know.
But what we do know is that an issue that was under the radar screen and wasn’t get much traction or interest from people in power in the studios, just became a very public problem for them.