Over the past year hashtags like #MeToo and #TimesUp made waves in Hollywood. Yet the reality remains that #OscarsSoMale was trending once again this year in large response to the all-male nominees picked for best director.
Last year, Greta Gerwig’s nomination made her only the fifth woman in history to ever get recognized in category.
But the #4PercentChallenge demands change, not only for 2020 but to the fundamental systems keeping women out of leadership roles like directing. Organized by Time’s Up and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the hashtag already has big names committing to announcing projects with at least one female director within the next 18 months.
Kicked off by Tessa Thompson at Sundance on Friday, Jan. 25, plenty more stars followed suit over the weekend to all take up the challenge, including Oscar-nominated Get Out director Jordan Peele, Captain Marvel‘s Brie Larson, Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu, Star Wars director J.J. Abrams, and Reese Witherspoon.
The 4% statistic comes from the Annenberg Initiative’s finding that, “only 4% of the top 100 studio films were directed by women.”
This isn’t for lack of talent, either. The cycle that gives so few women opportunities to take on leadership roles has perpetuated itself for too long in Hollywood. Women are given such few chances to prove themselves as directors, which gives studios the excuse to not hire them on the basis of lack of experience.
The new initiative hopes to pressure those studios into breaking down the systemic gatekeeping. And with the recent finding that women-led entertainment performs better at the box office, there’s ample incentive to meet that challenge.
I am always glad that days like this afford us to have a conversation about the lack of women getting nominated for big awards. Remember this is not about whether a film is good, cause Ahem- Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice – but it’s about access and opportunity.
— Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) January 22, 2019
But access and opportunity aren’t the only challenge women directors face when it comes to getting their work recognized in Hollywood. In a Twitter thread, Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein called out the industry after the 2019 Oscar nominations were announced.
She pointed to how even when women do manage to get directing jobs, they are often given far less resources to both make their films and also campaign them for awards season.
There were great, critically-acclaimed films in 2018 directed by women, like Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me. And there’s logistical reasons to why they’re not being considered by most major award committees.
Hopefully, social media initiatives like the #4PercentChallenge and #RememberTheLadies will begin the work tearing down these barriers.