Women Directed Record Number of Top-Earning 2020 Films, But Still Far Behind Men

Stella Meghie on the set of The Photograph. (Credit: Universal Pictures)

The percentage of women directing top-earning films inched up to a record high in 2020, although the numbers are still low compared to the percentage of male directors, according to a new report released Saturday.

Women made up 16 percent of directors on the top 100 grossing films at the domestic box office in 2020. That’s up from 12 percent in 2019 and 4 percent in 2018, said the Celluloid Ceiling Report, which has tracked female employment on the top U.S. films for 23 years.

When looking at the top 250 grossing films, women accounted for 18 percent of directors, up from 13 percent in 2019 and 8 percent in 2018.

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Even though the coronavirus pandemic put a huge dent in box office returns for the year, Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (released Feb. 7); Stella Meghie’s The Photograph (released Feb. 14) and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 (released Dec. 25) were among the top 100 grossing films. [Stella Meghie is shown above with Issa Rae on the set of The Photograph].

The study also tracked writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers. Overall, women made up 21 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers on the top 100 films, compared to 20 percent 2019.

“Taking a broader view, the imbalance in behind-the-scenes roles remains stunning,” said Martha Lauzen, founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, who created the annual report.

In 2020, the majority of films (67 percent) employed 0 to 4 women in the roles studied, while 5 percent of films employed 0 to 4 men in those jobs.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s study also tracked women’s employment on “Watched at Home” films.