Hollywood Still Isn’t Hiring Many Women or People of Color to Direct Major Films

Hollywood’s efforts to improve diversity among filmmakers were disparaged as “performative acts” in a new report detailing the still-scant directing opportunities afforded to women and people of color.

Per Variety, the new “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair” report from Dr. Stacy L. Smith at the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that, of the 116 directors attached to the 100 highest-grossing films of 2023, just 14 were women. That 12.1 percent figure is up from last year’s 9 — though it’s not even a 10 percent increase from the 4.5 percent of women directors who appeared on the same list in 2018. 

As the study’s authors note, the woeful changes in director gender diversity stand in sharp contrast to the box office achievement of Barbie, which made Greta Gerwig the highest-grossing female director of all time. 

“One film or one director are simply not enough to create the sea change that is still needed behind the camera,” the report stated. “Until studios, executives and producers alter the way they make decisions about who is qualified and available to work as a director on top-grossing films, there is little reason to believe that optimism is warranted.”

Furthermore, the racial diversity statistics among women directors barely changed between 2022 and 2023. Four women of color directed movies on 2023’s 100 highest-grossing films list, three of whom were Asian (Celine Song for Past Lives, Adele Lim for Joyride, Fawn Veerasunthorn for Wish), and one of whom was Black (Nia DaCosta for The Marvels).

Overall, racial diversity amongst directors of the highest-grossing films of the year didn’t improve much between 2022 and 2023 either. Just 22.4 percent of directors (26 total) were not white men in 2023, which is up from the 20.7 percent in 2022 — but still down from the 27.3 percent in 2021. 

The major Hollywood studios, as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, have made various pledges and promises to improve diversity in recent years, but even before the new report, the actual data showed little significant momentum. As such, the 2023 Inclusion in the Director’s Chair report not only referred to these calls for diversity as “performative acts,” but slammed Hollywood for not taking “real steps towards fostering change.” 


In a statement, Dr. Smith said, “Over more than a decade and a half, the percentage of women in top directing jobs has not even grown by 10 percentage points. These figures are not merely data points on a chart. They represent real, talented women working to have sustainable careers in an industry that will not hire them into jobs they are qualified to hold solely because of their identity” (via The Wrap).

The report does come with a few caveats, however. Chief among them is the decision to structure the study around the highest-grossing films of the year, which inevitably means leaving out movies released near the end of 2023 that didn’t have enough time to potentially accrue significant box office tallies. That also means leaving out independent films, where there actually has been more diversity in recent years. For instance, the study noted that, between 2021 and 2024, 54.6 percent of the films selected for the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival were directed by women.