Hollywood accused of gender bias in hiring women directors

New York: American Civil Liberties Union, a prominent rights organisation, has demanded investigation into Hollywood's hiring practices, alleging the industry is biased against women directors.

ACLU said it is asking state and federal agencies to investigate the hiring practices of Hollywood's major studios, networks and talent agencies, and possibly bring charges against them, for alleged rampant and intentional gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring female directors, reported the New York Times.

"Women directors aren't working on an even playing field and aren't getting a fair opportunity to succeed," said Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBT, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU of Southern California.

"Gender discrimination is illegal. And really Hollywood doesn't get this free pass when it comes to civil rights and gender discrimination." The ACLU has detailed statistical and anecdotal evidence of what it calls systemic "overt sex stereotyping and implicit bias."

Should the agencies agree to investigate and then find bias, they might take actions that could include filing legal charges. The ACLU did not name specific offenders, but requested that the agencies use studies and hiring information from major studios, networks and the Directors Guild of America to identify employers with the worst records.

It has cited numerous examples of bias, for instance, a University of Southern California study found that of the top-grossing 100 films from 2013 and 2014, just 1.9 percent were directed by women. A Directors Guild of America analysis of 220 television shows consisting of 3,500 episodes broadcast in 2013 and 2014 found that 14 percent were directed by women.

A third of all episodes had no female director at all. The organisation collected stories from 50 female directors, who reported being told by executives that a show was not "woman friendly"; learning that producers had repeatedly told agents to "not send women" for prospective jobs; or being informed at meeting for a television job that "we already hired a woman this season."

ACLU is challenging the statement, often-repeated by studio executives, that there are not very many qualified female directors, and urging the government agencies to look into how studios and producers create short lists of potential directors for specific projects.

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