Sexism In Onscreen Workplaces Is Even Worse Than In Real Life

As if we needed another reason to prove just how bad women have it, ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight blog pointed out this grim statistic: the onscreen workplace is even more sexist towards women than in real life.

FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey mined the OpusDatabase, a film database that tracks, among other things, film credits, to see which professions women held in film. His findings were less than ideal. While women make up 89 percent of onscreen nurses and 81 percent of onscreen secretaries at the high end, they clock in at only three percent of soldiers and five percent of American presidents on the low end. Closer to the middle (if your definition of middle is very skewed, anyways) ,women play a mere 25 percent of doctors and 28 percent of executives on screen. The full chart, via FiveThirtyEight, is even more damning.

Women in Film Sexism Onscreen FiveThirtyEight

It does stand to point out that this data isn’t exactly perfect. By nature of its limitations, Opus only pulls data on roles that are specifically credited with their professional title — which generally is reserved for secondary characters who aren’t named in the film, but are seen onscreen. (Think of how many times you’ve sat through endless credit scrolls of a film because Lab Scientists #1-8 all needed to be credited.) Leading roles tend to fall out of the fray via this metric, as those characters generally tend to be listed in credits via their character’s full name, rather than “Business Executive Christian Grey.”

That being said, the lack of leading role data offers perhaps an even more damning look at sexism in the film industry: While producers may be actively seeking out diversity in their leading roles, as pressure mounts evermore to not be gender exclusive, the tapestry of characters that make up the world of their films all seem to be following insanely outdated gender binaries. And if background roles are cast with less scrutiny than lead roles, doesn’t that indicate how we really see the world?