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  • Originally published on
  • Thursday, Apr. 15, 2021
Writer-director Emerald Fennell (center), flanked by Carey Mulligan (l) and Janet Mock on the set of "Promising Young Woman" (photo courtesy of Focus Features)
Women Receive Just 32% Of Non-Acting Oscar Nominations
Women's Media Center acknowledges progress but calls for more representation and inclusion

Despite women making history in the top categories at the Oscars, the number of female nominees in the 18 non-acting categories increased by only two percentage points this year, according to a Women’s Media Center analysis.

Of the total of 205 nominees for directing, producing, writing, editing, and other crucial behind-the scenes roles, 140 (68%) are men and 65 (32%) are women. Last year, women received only 30% of the nominations, while men received 70%.

For the first time ever, the Best Director category included two female nominees, one of them the first woman of color ever nominated: Chloé Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman.

WMC co-founder Jane Fonda said, “We celebrate both women nominees for Best Director--what a phenomenal achievement for Emerald Fennell and Chloé Zhao. How wonderful it is to finally see that glass ceiling burst with Chloé Zhao’s history-making nomination as the first Chinese woman and the first woman of color to be nominated for best director. Yet, it’s also a glaring reminder that there’s still a long road ahead on the journey to equality and inclusion in Hollywood and the Oscars.” 

The Academy also made history since two films with female leads--Nomadland and Promising Young Woman--were nominated for Best Picture for the first time in the 93-year history of the awards. Women represent 30% or seven of the Best Picture nominees; men represent 70% or 16.

This year, for the first time, WMC has included race and ethnicity data for three categories: directing, writing (original screenplay), and writing (adapted screenplay). In the Best Director category, two out of the five nominees, or 40%, are people of color: Zhao, who is Chinese, and Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), who is Korean American.

Women are represented in all but two of the 18 categories and have a presence in the historically male-dominated fields of Visual Effects, Editing, and Sound. Films directed by women ended up not just in the Best Picture race, but also in the International Feature, Documentary Feature, and shorts categories.

Women continue to be shut out of the Cinematography and Original Score categories, with a total of only three women nominated in either category over the past decade.

“This new analysis shows that the nomination numbers for women behind the scenes have barely inched up by two percentage points since last year, and that feels discouraging,” noted Julie Burton, president and CEO of the Women’s Media Center.” She continued, “But a decade-long view shows some progress: Ten years ago, 21% of the non-acting nominations went to women; this year 32% of the nominees are women. That represents a significant shift over the span of 10 years--not as high as we want it to be, and nowhere near as diverse as it needs to be--but it demonstrates progress that has been a long time coming. Change in this industry has been painfully slow, but these numbers show the positive impact of the work of many diverse academic, advocacy, legal, and research organizations who steadily document, publicize, and challenge the lack of equality for women and people of color in Hollywood. And as more women gain positions of power--as directors, producers, and in other areas--they tend to hire more women. It is time to dig in and push harder so that the artistry and excellence we celebrate tells us there are seats at the table for everyone.”

Janet Dewart Bell, chair of the board of the Women’s Media Center, noted, “The activism of groups and individuals demanding change has boosted the visibility of women, especially women of color, in the industry overall, and the influence of that activism is evident in this year’s non-acting nominations, especially in the high-profile nominations in the Directing and Writing categories. We at the Women’s Media Center are inspired by the history-makers, but want to see far more women, especially women of color, in the Academy, in industry leadership, and in all the crucial behind-the-scenes roles.”

The Women’s Media Center each year analyzes women in the Oscars. Here are other highlights of the report:

  • Women represent 20% (1) of the Film Editing nominees; men, 80% (4)
  • Women represent 10% (1) of the Writing (Original Screenplay) nominees; men, 90% (9). No women of color were nominated in this category. One of the 10 nominated writers is Asian (Lee Isaac Chung, Minari), three are Black (Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, and Keith Lucas, Judas and the Black Messiah). This represents a record number of Black nominees in this category.
  • Women represent 29% (4) of the Writing (Adapted Screenplay) nominees; men, 71% (10). Women of color represent 14% of the nominees. Two of the 14 nominated writers are Iranian American (including Nina Pedrad, nominated for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), and one is Black (Kemp Powers, nominated for writing One Night in Miami).
  • Women represent 54% (7) of the Documentary (Feature) nominees; men, 46% (6)
  • Women represent 40% (4) of the Documentary (Short Subject) nominees; Men, 60% (6)
  • Oscar winners will be announced during the telecast on Sunday, April 25, on ABC.

The Women’s Media Center, co-founded by Fonda, Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, is an inclusive feminist organization that works to raise the visibility, viability, and decision-making power of women and girls in media to ensure that their stories get told and their voices are heard. The group does this by researching media through the WMC Media Lab; creating and modeling original online and on-air journalism; training women and girls to be effective in media; and promoting women experts in all fields through WMC SheSource.

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