WIF Research

NEW research commissioned by WIF, by Pepperdine University Professor Alicia Jessop, Esq. – Women Entrepreneurs in the Screen Industries: Obstacles and Opportunities (2022)

  • Executive Summary
  • VIDEO: Watch Variety‘s Angelique Jackson moderate a panel discussion about the research findings with Amy Baer (WIF Board President; President, MRC Films’ Landline Pictures), Stephanie Allain (Founder, Homegrown Pictures), Alicia Jessop, Esq. (Pepperdine University), Laura Lewis (CEO and Founder, Rebelle Media), and Paul Brooks (President, Gold Circle)

Commissioned by ReFrame: The Ticket to Inclusion: Gender & Race/Ethnicity of Leads and Financial Performance Across 1,200 Popular Films (2020)


Together with Sundance Institute, we have commissioned groundbreaking research with Dr. Stacy Smith and her team at USC’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism over the last three years. Before this project, an analysis of gender composition among content creators from the independent film sector had never been undertaken. We believe that by learning more about how women are faring in the independent film world, and the obstacles that are keeping women from commercial films, we gain powerful insights into ways to positively effect progress. Just below are thumbnail sketches of the research; but this is only the beginning of what we’ve learned. Click below for the entire studies.

  • Phase I: “Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers” examines gender differences in submissions and selections over multiple years for U.S. films in the Sundance Film Festival, and in Sundance Institute Feature Film and Documentary Film Programs. The study also delves into qualitative interviews with a targeted group of independent female directors and producers, industry executives, and thought leaders in the field.
  • Phase II: This new study updates Sundance Film Festival data to include 2013 numbers and delves into Sundance Institute’s Lab data, analyzing the rate at which female filmmakers enter Sundance’s artist labs and the rate at which they subsequently complete and exhibit their work. The Phase II study also continues further deep-dive qualitative inquiry, exploring gender-based perceptions among thought leaders in the field.
  • Phase III: “Exploring the Careers of Female Filmmakers” explores how female directors fare after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. We assess the types of films, distribution deals, and exhibition patterns of male and female U.S. Dramatic Competition directors. Then, through industry interviews with filmmakers, buyers, and sellers, we examine the unique impediments female filmmakers face.

The third phase of research garnered extensive media attention when it was published on April 21, and again in the spring of 2015, when it became part of the foundation of an ACLU action to expose and combat gender discrimination in Hollywood.

Full Research

CLICK HERE to read Phases I and II
CLICK HERE to read Phase III


Sundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles Unveil Groundbreaking Study on Careers of Female Directors (04/15)
ACLU Asks State and Federal Civil Rights Agencies to Investigate Gender Discrimination in Hollywood (05/15)


Entrepreneurial Pathways

In an effort to counter one of the major roadblocks to gender parity in the screen industries—access to capital at the top of the system—Women In Film has partnered with Pepperdine University to launch Entrepreneurial Pathways. This partnership will encompass research into the paucity of funding for female-led companies, and create tools and resources for women to raise capital.

Press Release: Women In Film and Pepperdine University Partner on ENTREPRENEURIAL PATHWAYS, a New Initiative to Improve Funding for Women-led Businesses in the Screen Industries (06/19)

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter.

Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity

Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity (TTIE) is a consortium of working TV writers from underrepresented communities, spanning emerging writers to showrunners and working across various segments of the TV industry (Network/Cable/Streaming, Drama, Comedy, Animation, etc.). By increasing inclusion in TV writers rooms and improving working conditions for all TV writers, TTIE seeks to empower underrepresented writers and transform the industry from within. In 2018, TTIE became a grantee of the Pop Culture Collaborative and a collaborative project of WIF. @WriteInclusion on Twitter and Instagram.

Other Sources

Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, with CAPE

I Am Not a Fetish or Model Minority: Redefining What it Means to Be API in the Entertainment Industry (2021)

McKinsey & Company

Black representation in film and TV: The Challenges and impact of increasing diversity (2021)

Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, San Diego State University

UCLA College, Social Sciences Division, Dean’s Initiatives

[Research from 2018 and previous conducted by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA]

#ReelEquity, IATSE Local 871 (with Working IDEAL)

Script Girls, Secretaries and Stereotypes: Gender Pay Equity on Film and Television Crews (2018) [Full Report]

Skoll Center for SIE, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (with Participant Media)

The State of SIE: Mapping the landscape of social impact entertainment (2019)

Dear Producer