It is such welcoming news that television veteran Lesli Linka Glatter has been elected president of the Directors Guild of America. For years, Glatter has mentored and advocated for women directors and has been a force within the union fighting for members’ rights.
Presumably her position will give her an even bigger platform to continue pushing for more parity in Hollywood’s male-dominated director ranks. Recent studies from “The Celluloid Ceiling” and “Boxed In,” two reports from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, show us just how egregiously wide the gap in the business still is: Women comprised just 16% of directors working on the top 100 (domestic) grossing films of 2020; women accounted for 31% of directors working on U.S. shows on streaming services and 19% of directors working on U.S. shows for broadcast networks in 2020-21.
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“More than eight out of 10 times when we see a movie in a theater or it streams at home, it’s directed by a man, with the studios continuing to provide limited opportunities for women on large-budget features,” says Dr. Martha Lauzen, creator of the reports and executive director of the center. “A lot of work remains to be done on behind-the-scenes gender ratios.”
It’s also astounding that Glatter, a three-time DGA winner and one of TV’s most successful director-producers (“Homeland,” “The Leftovers” and “Mad Men,” among others), is only the second woman to lead the DGA. She follows Martha Coolidge’s one-term run (2002-03), which was nearly two decades ago!
“It’s about time that the DGA would have another president, who happens to be a [very talented] woman,” Lauzen tells me. “Let’s hope another 20 years don’t pass before we see a third.”
In 2017, Glatter helped spearhead an initiative, along with then-NBC president Jennifer Salke, for the network to hire more women directors. The program aimed to give 10 female directors the opportunity to shadow Glatter on up to three episodes of an NBC series she was leading, with an in-season commitment to direct at least one of the episodes. I hoped to hear from Glatter on the upshot of those efforts and about her plans for recruiting more female directors into the guild, but she was stuck in production meetings in Austin, where she’s shooting David E. Kelley’s series “Love and Death” for HBO Max.
One final note on accomplished women behind the camera: I was struck by what New Zealand director Jessica Hobbs said Sunday night when she accepted her Emmy for best directing of a drama series for her Season 4 finale of “The Crown” for Netflix.
“Not a lot of women have won this award, so I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of some really extraordinary people,” she said, paying tribute to her 77-year-old mother, Aileen O’Sullivan, who is still directing.
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