If you need more evidence that women behind the scenes in Hollywood face an Everest-like uphill climb, look at the current slate of big-budget summer films—where franchises and sequels and remakes abound, but female directors of mainstream movies are virtually nonexistent. Even films with a majority-female cast like Bad Moms and Ghostbusters have male directors. For years, the so-called “celluloid ceiling” has been the norm in the entertainment world. But lately the industry, the public, the federal government, and researchers have become more vocal about Hollywood’s many diversity issues, and there’s been a growing amount of data showing why the gender disparity makes no financial sense.
In an analysis of 1,591 films released from 2010 to 2015, the online movie-financing platform Slated found that movies with women in key roles in front of and behind the camera tend to make more money—even though female-helmed projects are rarer and usually receive smaller budgets. The study, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, arrived at several findings that only strengthen the argument that having more opportunities for women in the industry is good for business and moviegoers alike.
The Slated analysis, which looked at nearly every film that appeared on at least one theater screen in the U.S., found that men and women directors didn’t gravitate toward any specific genre—contrary to stereotypes saying women direct more rom-coms or men direct more action films. (This largely holds true even if you adjust for the fact that there’s a far bigger sample size for male directors.) The study found that movies with women producers, writers, and lead actors enjoyed a greater return on investment than those from their male counterparts.