The evolution of the gender gap
in the film industry

Examining the Evolution of Sexism and Discrimination in the Film Industry

In a recent interview with The CEO Magazine, actress and producer Reese Witherspoon spoke out about the ongoing gender imbalances in Hollywood. She discussed the difficulties that women face in the industry, particularly when it comes to the types of roles available to them.

“These women are accomplished and they deserve to be the center of their own stories, But very often, everything the woman in the script says appears to be in service of the male characters.”


This quote highlights one of the major issues faced by women in the movie industry – the lack of complex, fully-developed female characters and the frequent sidelining of women's stories in favor of male-driven narratives. The film industry has long been criticized for its gender imbalances, including the underrepresentation of women in acting and directing roles and the frequent awarding of prizes to men. Witherspoon's comments speak to the need for greater representation and equal opportunities for women in Hollywood. In an effort to understand the gender gap in the movie industry, we will use the CMU Movie Summary Corpus dataset to examine the representation of women in movie plots, principal roles, lexical fields, awards nominees, and winners.


First insights on gender gap

From the studied datasets, the overall proportion of female vs. male movie characters and actors looks like this.


We could stop here and say that YES indeed, the cinema industry exhibits a gender gap. But data analysis is never that simple… To have a real insight on gender (in)equality on screen and on set, we worked around different axes around the topic of women representation. Women representation is described in various ways. Firstly, are women numerically present? Then, what are women associated with and how do we talk about these women? What kind of roles and jobs women do are the most appreciated by the public and by the industry itself? And finally, how do women interact with others?

Hey pretty woman, are you there?

Examining movie plots allows us to analyze the prevalence of feminine and masculine pronouns to understand the representation of each gender on screen, as summaries are the direct representation of the movie itself. Our analysis shows that there is a significant difference between the occurrence of feminine and masculine pronouns in the summaries, with feminine pronouns appearing in only 70% of summaries and masculine pronouns appearing in 89% of them. This suggests that there may be a disparity in the representation of men and women in these movies.