Lights, camera…where are the women?

After years of fighting for justice for equality for women in the film industry, it still seems as though there’s a long way to go. In a recent interview with director Robert Rodriguez, Barbra Streisand has once again opened a can of worms… Sexism in the film industry. In the past she has claimed it has cost her multiple Oscar nominations over the years.

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand

Streisand has called for there to be more female directors in the movie industry, and says that there still is ”jealousy” among men in the business who feel threatened that a woman can do their job just as well.


At the Tribeca Film Festival during a Q&A, the 75-year-old screen legend shared her views on the gender wage gap in Hollywood. Out of 89 Academy Award ceremonies – and 440 nominations – only four women have ever been nominated for Best Director — and only one has ever won.

Barbara Streisand speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2016 at Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Fortune)

Former U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to singer Barbra Streisand during an East Room ceremony at the White House. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The four female nominees were; Lina Wertmuller in 1976 for Seven Beauties; Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993; and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003). Kathryn Bigelow was the well-deserved Oscar winner in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.

Bigelow’s work was constantly being put down, and back in 2012 American author, screenwriter, and short story writer, Bret Easton Ellis, caused outrage with a singular twitter post…

Despite being a hugely successful director, singer and songwriter, Streisand said she still considers herself an actor first and only fell into those other careers because of the hurdles she faced:

‘I would say I’m an actress first, only because I started singing because I couldn’t get a job as an actress, and I started directing because I couldn’t be heard as an actress,‘ she said.

“Not enough women are directing now. I love when I see a woman’s name on a film.” Then added, ‘Then I pray that it’s good.”

Director Kathryn Bigelow and presenter Barbara Streisand onstage during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Caulfield/WireImage)

Barbra isn’t the only one who has spoken out about her experience with sexism in the film industry. Actress Jessica Chastain spoke to Variety, about needing more female representation behind the camera.

“I told myself I’m going to try to work with a female filmmaker every year. I’m not looking at it in terms of, I’m going to push my career.”

In 2016, Chastain started a production company called Freckle Films. The goal is to hire female writers, to give opportunities to people who haven’t had opportunities. She emphasised that there is a need to take risks on people who haven’t yet gotten to that level yet.

There are still far more men than women working in almost every field in the film industry, with The Guardian reporting the ratio of female to male directors being hired having dropped from 9% to 7% since 1998. This is purely down to the fact that females just aren’t being given chances in such a one-sided industry.

There are also not enough films with female protagonists or characters who are more than the obligatory wife, girlfriend or assistant. There is a massive audience out there that want more stories about strongwomen and more female role models not just in front of the camera.

Hollywood has undoubtedly been male dominated for years, but recently the number of women speaking up and sharing their tales of discrimination has increased. How many more voices will it take before the film industry starts to foster more diversity?

Text: Afua Aidoo

Images: Getty images

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