The Plight of Hollywood’s Female Executives

I am attending a lecture by Phyllis Schlafly and subsequent protest in about an hour. It should be a fun time. In honor of the woman who is AGAINST the Equal Rights Amendment coming to my very liberal and very feminist college, I’ve decided to post an excerpt from this article in today’s New York Times.

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Producer Sherry Lansing

Hollywood’s Shortage of Female Power
by Sharon Waxman

While Hollywood has not stopped making films appealing to women and girls, as evidenced by recent and coming releases like Music and Lyrics, Nancy Drew, and The Nanny Diaries, women here worry that the future will not be so bright.

They are nervous about the disappearance of many of the movie world’s most visible female power brokers and concerned that a box office dominated by seemingly male-oriented action films like 300” means less attention for movies that have obvious appeal to female audiences, 51 percent of moviegoers.

“I feel that it’s a different time; it’s not the time that it was,” said Lynda Obst, the producer of Hope Floats and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, who said she recently had to fight to keep Disney from canceling one of her productions, a remake of Adventures in Babysitting.

“I don’t feel prejudice against me, not like in the early days,” she added, “but it’s not like the heyday either. It’s a boys’ era. And the market is driving that.”

Feeding this unease is the departure in the past 14 months of three of the four women who held top jobs at Hollywood’s major studios. Nina Jacobson, president of Disney’s motion picture group, lost out in a power play. Gail Berman, the president of Paramount, did not mesh well with her boss, Brad Grey, the studio’s chairman, and was pushed out. And Stacey Snider, the former chairwoman of Universal Pictures, chose to defect to DreamWorks, now a Paramount subsidiary, rather than continue to labor under the pressures of Universal’s ultimate corporate parent, General Electric.

They were all replaced by men. (Amy Pascal remains co-chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.) Meanwhile, one of the industry’s veteran executives, the former Paramount chairwoman Sherry Lansing, retired in late 2005, leaving the entertainment industry for charity work.

It is debatable whether the diminished number of women running major studios has had any effect on the kinds of movies being made. Studio executives, both men and women, have shown themselves to be pragmatists above all, choosing movies that they believe will make the most money for their corporate parents.

[…]

Ms. Lansing, who was the dean of female Hollywood studio executives, said she believed that lifestyle choices, along with the dumbing down of Hollywood movies, was affecting the number of women in the running for top jobs.

“Most people who got into the movie business wanted to make a certain kind of movie: movies that were character-driven, that affected the way you thought, that had social content, political content,” she said. “But now it’s about opening weekend.”

“At a certain point,” she continued, “some women will say: ‘I’ve done this enough. I have enough money. How long am I going to get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 11 p.m., six days a week?’ Women also want to be in love. A huge percentage want children. They want friends. They want life.”

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This is an interesting dilemma in Hollywood.

I wonder though… when has Hollywood ever been fair to women in workplace and female audiences? I’d say rarely, almost never. Granted there were the women’s films from the 30s, 40s and 50s, but since then, very few movies have been made for the female audience on a grand scale.

I do think there will be more female executives, but more might just have to “pay their dues”.

A big reason why Sherry Lansing and others were top Hollywood executives is mostly because of the decades when they came into power (the 80s and 90s), because following the feminist movement there was a push/demand for more women in the workforce.

Hollywood is now experiencing a presence of fewer female executives but so are other industries. This isn’t limited to Hollywood. Again, this has to do with age and timing.

I’m not defending Hollywood’s lack of female executives, but there are specific reasons why there are fewer.

Thoughts on this issue? Sound off below.

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