In Support of Women Writers and Directors

Yvonne AK Johnson

It’s a well known fact that women don’t write, direct or produce movies or shows as often as men. In the 2013-14 season not a single new Broadway show was by a woman. Moreover, usually four out of five Broadway shows are directed by men. During that same season, only twenty-four percent of all plays produced across the entire country were written by a woman, living or dead. Additionally, as of 2013, only six women had ever won the Tony, which is Broadway’s highest honor, for directing a play or musical. Despite the fact that theater is home to an abundance of progressive-minded artists, women have seen sexism in the industry for as long as it has been around.

Why do we even need to support women writers and directors? Well, the lack of female writers and directors means that young women aren’t seeing themselves portrayed on stage, which has significant consequences for female empowerment and young women’s self-esteem. According to writer Jessica Ogilvie, “they’re never seeing their stories as they experience them, and that’s very profound… that has very profound ramifications” (Huffington Post). Female writers and directors should be given the same equal opportunity as men to write and direct shows. When women are in high-level roles such as a director, they may allow other women the opportunity to get their foot in the door as well. An example is in film: in “films with female directors, women represented 53 percent of writers, while women accounted for only 10 percent of writers on films with male directors” (thewrap.com).

What is being done to help the situation? Eleven years ago, Rocco Landesman, who was the Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts at the time, predicted that doors were beginning to open for female directors, however slowly. We have seen many organizations starting that focus on empowering women writers and directors and help them get started in the industry. Meryl Streep, for example, has funded a screenwriting lab for women writers over 40. Called the Writer’s Lab, this is the first and only program to date that aims to help female screenwriters over the age of 40 breakthrough in the industry.

While this blog only touched on a few of the reasons why it’s imperative to support women writers and directors, there are many more. If you agree, then take action and make your voice heard!

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