Study: Women Are Getting More Leads In Film, But Alas, They Are Mostly White

Great news for (white)women! A study as reported in Variety says that women are doing their best to crack the glass ceiling and that now, more than ever, women are being cast as leads. But, the twist here is that most of these positions are going to white women. Win some, lose some, right?

According to the study conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, “women comprised 22% of leads in the top 110 grossing films, 34% of major characters, and 33% of all speaking characters.” Even better, 2015 saw a 6% increase in the number of protagonists played by these women, which is progress. It’s not just romantic leads, either: 18% of the roles logged by the study included antagonists as well.

This is great news for women, in general. This news, however is less than ideal for women of color who face numbers that are slightly more disheartening.

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%).

Hmmmm. Really makes you think. But wait! It gets a little better(worse).

 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.

What does it all mean? Women are getting more lead roles in Hollywood, which is fantastic. Bolstered by the box office success of movies like TrainwreckThe Hunger Games franchise and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, women in Hollywood have seen some small returns on their ongoing efforts at chipping away at the film industry’s white, male problem. But, the numbers for diversity  — and, by extension, representation — remain dismal. That’s no surprise to anyone paying attention.

Martha Lauzen, the author of the study remains hopeful, which is really the best thing anyone can do. “The numbers were definitely moving in the right direction,” she said. “What is not clear is whether or not 2015 was a bit of an anomaly or whether this is the beginning of a longer-term trend.”