The American Civil Liberties Union is taking on Hollywood's boys-club mentality.
The organization on Tuesday called on state and federal agencies to investigate gender discrimination at major Hollywood studios, networks and talent agencies, contending that "women are systematically excluded from or underemployed in directing jobs."
Letters sent to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs cite statistical evidence revealing dramatic disparities in the hiring of women directors in television and big-budget films.
A USC study cited in the letters found that only 1.9% of directors of the top-grossing 100 films of 2013 and 2014 were women, and of the 1,300 top-grossing films from 2002-14, only 4.1% of the directors were women.
Earlier this year, a study by the Los Angeles Times found that the total number of major studio films directed by women has been stubbornly low over the last five years, hitting a high of 8.1% in 2010 and falling to a low of 4.6% last year.
The numbers cited by the ACLU are backed up by anecdotal accounts gathered by the group from 50 women directors. One, described as a successful TV director, said, "You just have to do better, with less complaining."
Another, described as an Oscar-nominated director, said, "You can't ask of every woman in the profession to be such an outstanding pioneer that she just has to be 20 or 30 times better and never have a failed movie, which is something she can't control in the first place. … Why can't we be judged in the way the guys are judged?"
Melissa Goodman, director of the ACLU SoCal's LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, said in a statement, "Blatant and extreme gender inequality in this large and important industry is shameful and unacceptable." She added, "The time has come for new solutions to this serious civil rights problem."