A Decade in Review

As 2020 approaches, take a look back at some of the moments that have changed the game for women in the screen industries:

March 7, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, for THE HURT LOCKER. As producer, she is also awarded when the film receives Best Picture.

May 13, 2011

BRIDESMAIDS, written by Kristen WiigAnnie Mumolo, debuts, becoming the top-grossing R-rated female comedy to date. The film’s success launches discussions about the bankability of comedy featuring women, its appeal to broad audiences, and women creating raunchy content.

May 26, 2011

KUNG FU PANDA 2 is released, and becomes the highest-grossing animated film of the year, grossing $665 million worldwide. Its director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who was head of story for the first KUNG FU PANDA film, is the first woman to solely helm a feature from a major Hollywood animation studio.

April 7, 2012

Kate McKinnon debuts as a featured player on “Saturday Night Live” during its 38th season, and is the long-running series’ first openly lesbian cast member. In 2013 she is promoted to the repertory cast, and as of 2017, she is the longest-serving woman on the current cast. For her work on “SNL,” she has won Emmys—the first woman to receive the award for the show—a Dorian Award, a Critics’ Choice Award, and more.

July 10, 2014

For her role as Sophia Burset on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” Laverne Cox is nominated for the “Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series” Emmy, becoming the first out transgender person to receive an Emmy nomination.

September 20, 2014

​UN Women launches the He for She campaign, calling for solidarity to end gender inequality. Actor and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson is the initiative’s spokesperson, calling for men and boys to stand alongside women, as sexism negatively affects us all.

November 2014

Janice Dickinson, Louisa Moritz, Michelle Hurd, and Beverly Johnson are among a group of the first women to speak out about sexual assault perpetrated by Bill Cosby, garnering widespread media attention. Within months, sixty women come forward to accuse Cosby, and the allegations—along with the guilty verdict—result in legislative changes. These include California’s Justice for Victims Act, a bill signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 28, 2016, eliminating the 10-year statute of limitations for felony sexual offenses.

December 25, 2014

Ava DuVernay‘s SELMA is released shortly before the 50th anniversary of the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery. She rewrites most of the original script, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches that had been previously licensed. DuVernay becomes the first black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director, and the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

She then goes on to be the first woman of color hired to direct a film with a budget over $100 million, 2018’s A WRINKLE IN TIME.

January 14, 2016

When the Oscar nominations are announced, for the second year in a row (after a period of slowly-improving diversity) all 20 of the actors nominated are white, and films featuring protagonists of color are snubbed across awards categories. A 2015 tweet by April Reign has a resurgence, creating the #OscarsSoWhite rallying cry, and the Academy’s overlooking of non-white creatives is decried by a range of figures including Jada Pinkett Smith, Halle Berry, and Emma Thompson. AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs—who in 2013 was elected as the Academy’s first African-American, and third female President—announces “sweeping changes” to increase diversity.

July 6, 2016

Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson files a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network’s chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, alleging that her refusal of his sexual advances cost her her job. Her actions enable dozens of other survivors to come forward, and Ailes’ position is terminated. Dramatizations of these events are portrayed in the series “The Loudest Voice” and the film BOMBSHELL.

July 15, 2016

The gender-swapped reboot of GHOSTBUSTERS debuts, starring Melissa McCarthyKristen WiigKate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. The trailer immediately polarizes online audiences, who are dismayed by the franchise’s central characters being recast with women.

September 2, 2016

Actor Gabrielle Union pens a moving essay for The Los Angeles Times about affirmative consent after rape accusations against Nate Parker are unearthed. Union openly discusses how her experience as a survivor of a violent rape affected her decision to portray a victim in Parker’s film BIRTH OF A NATION, and condemns Parker’s actions while defending the film he made.

February 22, 2017

Women In Film and Sundance Institute, along with 50 Hollywood leaders, launch ReFrame, a formal action plan to further gender parity in the media industry. It employs a peer-to-peer approach to build and support a practical framework to mitigate bias in the entertainment industry. Its programs include a 14-point culture change and production roadmap, the ReFrame Rise directors program, and the ReFrame Stamp for gender-balanced productions.

February 26, 2017

Because of the ceremony’s conventions, Brie Larson—the previous year’s Best Actress Oscar winner—presents the Best Actor award to its winner Casey Affleck. Despite her participation in the run of show, she refrains from applauding him as a criticism of his alleged history of sexual assault. In 2016, the year she won her award for playing a sexual violence survivor in ROOM, she had hugged each and every survivor who had been onstage with Lady Gaga as she performed her Oscar-nominated song “Til It Happens to You” from the campus rape documentary THE HUNTING GROUND.

In 2018, at the Women In Film Crystal + Lucy Awards®, she calls for diversity and representation among film critics and reporters.

June 2, 2017

Patty Jenkins‘ WONDER WOMAN is released, the director’s first feature since MONSTER in 2003. The movie breaks numerous box office records, remaining the highest-grossing film solely directed by a woman, to date grossing nearly $822 million worldwide.

July 21, 2017

GIRLS TRIP debuts, becoming the first film written by an African-American woman, Tracy Oliver, to make over $100 million at the box office. The critically-acclaimed comedy launches the career of relative newcomer Tiffany Haddish.

September 17, 2017

Lena Waithe becomes first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. Her “Thanksgiving” episode of the series “Master of None” was widely praised, featuring a story inspired by her experience of coming out as a lesbian.

October 2017

The #MeToo movement, founded by civil rights activist Tarana Burke in 2006, goes viral, spurred by public allegations of sexual abuse leveled at Harvey Weinstein. The effect has ripples throughout Hollywood and other industries as over 80 women in entertainment accuse Weinstein, and hundreds of others come forward about sexual harassment and violence perpetrated by other Hollywood figures.

November 16, 2017

Building on their Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, USC launches its Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

Its director, Professor Stacy L. Smith, said, “Our new name reflects our continued and unwavering commitment to championing inclusion in all forms—including but not limited to gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, disability and now mental health—across the media industry at a time when the climate makes it clear that our solutions are needed now more than ever.”

November 2017

Several women, including writers Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov, come forward with allegations of non-consensual sexual behavior from comedian Louis C.K. These revelations cause Tig Notaro to sever her collaborative ties with C.K., and his I LOVE YOU, DADDY costar Chloë Grace Moretz declines to participate in any promotion of the film.

The same month, Matt Lauer is terminated from employment by NBC News following colleagues’ reports of sexual harassment. As further allegations arise, it’s believed that Lauer’s dangerous behavior was likely known by network management.

December 2017

The WIF Help Line launches. It’s an integrated program offering resources and support—including referrals to pro bono legal services, sliding-scale therapy, and free support groups—for anyone who has experienced sexual harassment or misconduct while working in the entertainment industry. By December 2019, pro bono attorneys are available for callers in California, New York, and Georgia, and local mental health and emotional support service serve the cities of Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta.

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January 2018

Equal pay for women in Hollywood becomes a topic of conversation when actors Ellen Pompeo and Michelle Williams speak out about the divide. In The Hollywood Reporter, “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes shares the advice she gave Pompeo: “Decide what you think you’re worth and then ask for what you think you’re worth. Nobody’s just going to give it to you.”

When scenes from ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD were reshot to replace the recently-ousted sexual predator Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer, Williams revealed that she had taken scale for the new days of shooting, amounting to less than $1,000. Her costar Mark Wahlberg earned $1.5 million for those same days, which he ultimately donated to Time’s Up. On Equal Pay Day in 2019, Williams spoke at the U.S. Capitol on behalf of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

January 23, 2018

Rachel Morrison, the director of photography for Dee Rees‘ MUDBOUND, becomes the first woman ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, to be nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers’ Outstanding Achievement Award for Cinematography, and to win the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematographer.

The same year, Greta Gerwig becomes the fifth woman to ever receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director, for her debut feature LADY BIRD. And, in her speech upon winning Best Actress, Frances McDormand popularizes and brings attention to the “inclusion rider.”

April 2018

Beyoncé is the first black woman to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, playing tribute to the rich culture of historically black colleges and universities. The concert is the most live-streamed performance of all time, and in 2019 it is followed by “Homecoming,” a live companion album and an eponymous Netflix documentary.

Previously, in 2016, Beyoncé’s visual album “Lemonade” broke records and caused a massive cultural impact, her most critically-acclaimed record to date.

May 14, 2018

The Cannes Film Festival becomes the first major international festival to sign the 5050×2020 pledge to reflect the demographic makeup of the population, falling in line with signatory companies like Vice Media and talent agencies Paradigm, UTA, CAA, and ICM. The Venice and Berlin festivals follow suit, and initiatives like Women at Sundance and TIFF’s Share Her Journey work toward the same goal.

July 8, 2018

The FX series “Pose” premiered in June 2018, with media personality and activist Janet Mock a member of its writing staff. She is the first trans woman of color ever to be hired as a writer for a TV series. She also becomes the first trans woman of color to write and direct any television episode when she directs the episode “Love Is the Message,” which airs on July 8, 2018.

August 15, 2018

CRAZY RICH ASIANS debuts, grossing over $238 million worldwide and becoming the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade. It is the first major Hollywood studio film to feature a majority cast led by Asian or Asian-American actors since 1993’s THE JOY LUCK CLUB. The performances of Michelle Yeoh and Lisa Lu are especially praised.

January 6, 2019

Sandra Oh is the first woman of Asian descent to host the Golden Globe Awards, and two win two Golden Globes. As she accepts her award that evening for her work on “Killing Eve,” she tearfully addresses her parents in Korean. During her opening monologue, she addresses the lack of diversity seen on this kind of scale: “I said yes to the fear of being on this stage tonight because…I wanted to be here to look out into this audience and witness this moment of change.” When she hosts “Saturday Night Live” in March 2019, she is only the third actress of Asian descent to do so, and the same year, she becomes the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Also at the 76th Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association institutes the Carol Burnett Award honoring outstanding contributions to television.

February 24, 2019

Costume designer Ruth E. Carter and production designer Hannah Beachler make history for their work on BLACK PANTHER at the 91st Academy Awards. Before them, only one black woman had ever won an Oscar in a non-acting category, when Irene Cara‘s “Flashdance… What a Feeling” won Best Original Song. 

March 8, 2019

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s CAPTAIN MARVEL debuts, becoming the first female-led superhero film to gross over $1 billion. Pre-release efforts to ‘review bomb’ the movie with negative audience comments led review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to adjust its “Want to See” scoring section so that trolling against Brie Larson‘s outspoken feminism wouldn’t have such a measurable negative impact.

WIF member Pinar Toprak is the first woman to compose the score for a major superhero movie. Mentoring Program mentor Sarah Finn is the casting director for all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and ReFrame Ambassador Victoria Alonso is the films’ producer.

September 26, 2019

The 21st season of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” premieres, making its protagonist Olivia Benson the longest-running character on primetime television. Actor Mariska Hargitay, having portrayed Benson since 1999, has since then become an activist advocating for sexual assault victims. In 2004 she founded the Joyful Heart Foundation providing support for survivors, and in 2017 she produced the documentary I AM EVIDENCE, raising awareness of the rape kit backlog.

These aren’t all of the groundbreaking moments that have occurred over the past decade for women in the screen industries… Nor are all of these advances enough. There is so much more work to be done, and at Women In Film we’re heading towards the new decade energized to continue fighting for equality in our industry and our culture. You can help us accomplish this work by supporting our programs to educate rising female filmmakers, amplify women’s work in front of and behind the camera, and deepen the pipeline of the next generation of talented creatives. Click below to make a tax-deductible year-end donation to the WIF Annual Fund.

What have been your favorite iconic moments of the past decade? Head over to Twitter to let us know!