Why Are There So Few Women in Politics and Entertainment?

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

We at Girls’ Club Entertainment are currently developing a documentary about women’s under-representation in entertainment and politics in the United States, and what we can do about it. In our research, we have found plenty of data to prove that there are very few women in elected office in the U.S. and that few women hold influential positions in the American media. In the face of these dramatic statistics, our central question is—why? We hope the IMOW community will help us explore this question further.
Jennifer Siebel, Girls' Club Entertainment founder and I.M.O.W. Board Member, in conversation with Norah Bagarinka, translator for the Emmy Award-winning and Oscar Award-nominated documentary short God Sleeps in Rwanda, at I.M.O.W.'s Women Wielding Cameras Film Festival. شاهدي شاشة أكبر >
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% 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, 6% of film directors were female, a decline from 7% in 2006 and 11% in 2000. In 2007, women comprised on average just 15% 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% 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 8 states have female governors; 16% of U.S. Senators are female; in the House of Representatives women hold just 16.3% 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% 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 IMOW 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!

This story contains information from...

Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media (http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/downloads/GDIGM_Main_Findings.pdf)

The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2007 (http://magazine.women-in-film.com/Portals/0/Article_Images/lauzen/2007ceiling/2007_Celluloid_Ceiling.pdf)

The Official Academy Awards Database (http://www.oscars.org/awardsdatabase/)

Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics (http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/fast_facts/index.php)

The U.S. Census (http://www.census.gov/)


(6) | قدمي أضف تعليقك


Girls' Club Entertainment , Media , Film , Movies


Suzanne Allen
Suzanne Allen

As a writer, I have had the same concerns regarding academia and the literary cannon (namely mainstream anthologies,) and after a few years of grappling with the issue, my life experience and research keep leading me to the same source: the mommy factor...

I've seen mom after mom fall short on the job because of conflicting priorities and even just general distraction or disinterest. Many new moms will tell you that having a baby just puts everything magically in perspective: Issues at work seem meaningless; time spent cooing and cawing is more rewarding; social groups are divided into "haves" (children) and the "have-nots," further isolating mommies from people with priorities other than children.

In the US where mommyhood has been elevated to sainthood, and where it is often preferable to make being a mom THE priority in a woman's life, why should we expect that society--women included--would be trying to do otherwise? Some days, I even think it miraculous that there are as many successfully working moms as there are.

Not to oversimplify a very hot topic, but extreme reform (of child care and societal ideals in general) is the only solution I see to our current stagnation in gender equality issues. And there's really nothing simple about that.

sheila malkind
الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية

Brava to Jennifer for her essay, Why So Few Women, and her Girls Club Entertainment.
In answer to her question: it is not surprising that it is so difficult for women to achieve equality when women are perceived as beautiful sex objects, and if not 'sexy', and slim and young with blonde hair, not important. Look at tv, and look at the ads in the newspapers: Macy's shows men in suits, women in lacy bras, or underpants. I have gathered these ads and would love to show them somewhere: an exhibit.
On the other hand, as the film curator for an upcoming International Film Festival on Aging, most of the films I have received portray fantastic older women -- a dearth of films about older men. Why, I don't know. Yes, men die earlier than women, but they are still doing great things in old age.
sheila malkind

Jennifer Serna
الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية

While progress for women has been made, our society still encourages women into supporting/assisting positions instead of leadership roles.
Since we're talking about both the media and politics does anyone remember the television program Spin City? Most of the main female characters served as secretaries in the mayors office. This is a perfect example of the media portraying women in lower ranked/supporting positions.

الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية

Add your thoughts to the story comments or participate in the featured forum thread by Girls' Club Entertainment.

Why so few women? Because women are ultra competitive and denigrate each other. Look at women's response to Sarah Palin - case in point!

Cathleen Miller
الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية

I am very interested in the work you are doing. I am an author currently at work on the biography of Dr. Nafis Sadik, first female head of a UN agency. The London Times named her one of the most powerful women in the world. As I write I constantly ask the question, "How did she, a Pakistani and Muslim, become such an extraordinary individual, one who breaks all stereotypes?" And I am incorporating the answers into the text so that readers have a model for how to raise their daughters to be world leaders.

I find it amazing that the US is so far down the list of nations with a high percentage of females in political office, and I salute you for taking a look at the reasons. After interviewing feminismo political leaders in Argentina and others around the world from presidents to diplomats, I believe we must look to our sisters abroad for inspiration.


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