Gender in the International Film Business

16 December '13 8 Comments on Gender in the International Film Business

Gender in the film industry with clapperboardThis is the first of a three part series on gender in the film industry, which I’ve wanted to look at for a long time. It’s taken a while to put this together and the end result is three blog posts and a whole heap of graphs. This article looks at new data I’ve gathered for the global film business, the second article looks at film audiences and the final post is a collation of all the film gender studies I could find. The blog articles cannot cover all of the information I have gathered so I am creating a PDF report that includes all the gender studies and data. If you want to receive the full 30 page report then please join my free mailing list via the box to the right and I’ll send you the PDF once it’s ready. The report will contain…

  • New data on gender within the global film business (see below for the overview)
  • New analysis of existing data, looking at whether a filmmaker’s gender matters to audiences
  • All the existing studies I could find on gender within a film industry, in the UK and globally.

So, for the first part – some new data I’ve gathered. In summary…

  • Across the whole world, 42.5% of professionals in the film business are women
  • Taiwan, China and Thailand have the highest percentage of women in their film business
  • The only countries which have over 50% women in their film industries are Taiwan, China, Thailand, Russia, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Malaysia, Ukraine and Romania.
  • 39% of UK film professionals are women
  • Mexico, India and Iran have the lowest percentage of women in their film business
  • Only 24% of the film professionals in Iran are women
  • The only film sectors in which women are the majority are Marketing, Publicity and PR
  • Women account for only a third of film professionals within Management

Gender in International Film Business, by Country

Some areas of the film industry are more visible than others. We can all watch a film and perform the Bechdel Test ourselves to look at gender representation for characters. However, much of the decisions about which films get shot are made behind closed doors and so it was this side that I wanted to investigate. In order to get a cross section of film professionals throughout the world, I decided to research the gender split within attendees of major film markets. Cannes Marche du FilmFilm markets take place every few months, and the largest is the Cannes Marché du Film in May. These events allow the film industry to gather, seek finance, build co-productions and sell the rights to distribute films to audiences around the world. To be ‘officially accredited’ at a major film market you normally need to prove your participation in the professional film industry and pay a fee. There will be few film professionals who haven’t attended a major film market in the last five years. Consequently, I feel that these numbers are representative of the gender split within the international business side of the film industry.

Gender in International Film Business, by Sector

Marketing, Publicity and PR are the only sectors where women make up over half of the participants. In fact, women are twice as common in Publicity and PR than they are in Management.

The two largest sectors, by number, are Management and Production, accounting for a combined total of 53% of attendees, which explains why two thirds of the sectors are ‘above average’. In my PDF report I have broken down each sector by country but sadly there is not enough space in this blog article to publish all the charts. You can get the report at the top of this page.

Next Up – Gender In Film Audiences

That enough business time for now. In a few days I will publish the next part of this gender study, looking at film audiences and whether female filmmakers make films for women or if audiences are indifferent to the gender of a film’s creators.


I have been ablely supported in this study by Alyssa Thorne to whom I am very grateful. While I have been crunching number she has been contacting film commissions, industry bodies and pressure groups for background research. In addition, I have been helped by Catherine P and by Nick at the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit. Gender in the film indutsry



  1. Hmmm. I’m not convinced. I don’t think you can say across the world 42% of film industry workers are women based on attendees at Cannes. For most of the world the only people who go to Cannes are sales and distribution people rather than production. Also it comes across as if Taiwan, Hong Kong, China etc are some kind of feminist standard bearers but my experience is that their stalls in the Cannes market are the most likely to have attractive women sat out front trying to entice people in. That will boost the numbers but its hardly flying the feminist flag really.

    Sadly I think far fewer than 42% of the world’s film professionals are women.

    1. You’re totally right that these numbers don’t show that 42% of the “film industry workers” are women. This data relations to the business of film, specifically Sales and Distribution. I have numbers on the industry more generally coming later this week and they’re far less encouraging.

  2. Very interested in this series, but Yikes! I hope this doesn’t mean that we’ll see this quote again and again: “Across the whole world, 42.5% of professionals in the film business are women”. Writers and directors (and editors and actors and… and…) are also ‘professionals in the film business’ and if we include them across the whole world women will NOT make up 42.5% of ‘professionals in the film business’. I know you itemise who’s included, elsewhere in the text, but think you need to qualify ‘professionals’ in that quote. It’s like adding women producers to the women who tell the stories, the women directors and writers, to create a group of women ‘filmmakers’. In that group, the higher proportion of women producers who participate in filmmaking then helps disguise the much lower numbers of women writers and directors. And if you have any doubt about e.g. the writers, check out the new Black List!

    1. Marian, I couldn’t agree more – the situation for creatives is much poorer than business professionals and I am publishing more data tomorrow and on Friday covering more aspects and sectors.

      The business of film (i.e. sales, distribution, financing, film markets, etc) is one aspect of the overall film world that is often overlooked, hence why I was interested in uncovering these numbers. I was slightly surprised myself, having been primed for a much lower female presence by figures such as the 8% of screenwriters in the UK. It’s still too low in many places but shows that the biggest challenge in the pursuit of gender equality is within ‘creatives’ (i.e. writers, producers and directors).

      I understand your fear of people misquoting these numbers but (a) I feel I have been very clear in the article and (b) these numbers are the facts – I always seek to present data as it is, not edit it to serve my own personal view. I’ll always be clear when referring to these facts and explaining the context in which they sit.

  3. Stephen, thank you so much for this. Incredibly useful and clearly demonstrated. CELLULOID CEILING; WOMEN FILM DIRECTORS BREAKING THROUGH is a book coming out this Spring that paints a bleaker picture especially for the USA where the number of women directors is falling yearly. We looked at the situation all over the world and ironically our findings about women directors in Iran show it being better for women than the USA for example.

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