It’s been said before, and often: Hollywood has a gender problem. Consider the most recent grim numbers — of 2015’s top 250 highest-grossing domestic films, 9 percent were directed by women — the wage gap, and this: Six years after Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director, in 2010, she remains alone in that category. As of last awards season, Alejandro Iñírritu has won more Best Director Oscars than all women in Hollywood combined.
On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California announced the government is trying (finally) to do something about it. In a statement, the group said the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs are fronting “a wide-ranging and well-resourced investigation into the [entertainment] industry’s hiring practices.”
If researchers find evidence of gender discrimination (no problem there), the government could take legal action against studios or talent agencies — though it’d admittedly be an uphill battle. Since last fall, the EEOC has interviewed more than 50 female directors, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“They were just at the very beginnings of being able to understand the industry,” director Maria Giese said of participating in the investigation. She spoke with researchers for four hours. “They asked about film schools. Who does the hiring? How do agencies work? Who pays you? Who signs the checks?”
While this is a step in the right direction, it could go nowhere: Investigators aren’t required to make their findings public, or take action at all.
Here is why they should.