(White) Women Are Increasingly Landing Lead Roles in Films, Study Finds

Great news for her.
Great news for her.

Hollywood is getting better at casting more female leads, according to a new study, but it’s mostly white women in said roles. The report also found that—strangely—female directors are more prone to hiring women than are their male counterparts.


The lack of women both in major roles and as directors has been an utterly dismal trend over the years. Headlines just from Jezebel: There’s Only 1 Female Film Director For Every 15.24 Male Ones, and Things Aren’t Getting Any Better (2013); Most Moviegoers Are Women, Even Though Movies Treat Women Like Garbage (2014); Women in Hollywood Are Still Few and Far Between (2015).

The latter article covers a 2015 report that surveyed 700 films, of which only 21 had a female lead or co-lead. These terrible conditions are improving, writes Variety, but not for women of color, according to a new study by San Diego University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Among the 110 highest grossing films of 2015—per the study, these movies included Trainwreck, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games and Star Wars: The Force Awakens—female leads made up 22 percent (up 6 percent from last year), while 34 percent of those movies featured women as major characters. Women in speaking roles totaled 33 percent.

The needle is moving for white actresses. But, via Variety:

...In a sign of the lack of racial diversity, the percentages of female characters of color were largely unchanged, with a slight increase in Black female characters (from 11% in 2014 to 13% in 2015), no change in the percentage of Latina characters (flat at 4%), and a drop in the percentage of Asian female characters (from 4% to 3%).


The roles actresses of color got were less prominent. Twenty seven percent of characters portrayed by Black, Latina, or Asian actresses were considered major roles, whereas 38% of those played by white actresses were significant parts.


An overall gender imbalance remains, too, with 64 percent of male characters being depicted in a work setting, compared to 44 percent of women.

Not surprisingly, women directors tend to be less prejudiced with casting:

Women were the protagonists in 50% of films from female directors and/or writers, but only 13% of the protagonists in films from male directors.


The study’s author Martha Lauzen thinks these stats are a sure sign of progress, but she says it’s unclear “whether or not 2015 was a bit of an anomaly or whether this is the beginning of a longer term trend.”

Contact the author at clover@jezebel.com.

Image via Getty



White women = Jennifer Lawrence

I swear she plays every single part regardless of age. I’m sick of seeing her in every damn movie.

I’m still waiting to see more of Lupita, she’s supposed to be getting all the roles but I guess she doesn’t have as cushy of a relationship with those top execs as jlaw seems to have.