11 Ways the DGA Sabotages Women Directors

At the Center of the Web of Discrimination Against Women Directors
The DGA is the Spider at the Center of the Web of Discrimination Against Women Directors

By Maria Giese

  1. In 1985 the DGA was disqualified from leading the class action lawsuit it had filed against three major Hollywood studios on behalf of women DGA members.  Even though judge Pamela Rymer ruled that the women had a valid case, order she had to disqualify the DGA as leading the class because, illness in her view, treatment the Guild discriminates against women as much as the studios do.
  1. After being disqualified from the suit, the DGA made agreements with the studios to hire more women (FLTTA Article 19 & BA Article 15), but it never acted on most aspects of the agreements, resulting in decades of stasis and decline in the number of employed women directors.
  1. Even though industry compliance of U.S. equal rights laws should be overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice and the EEOC, in the 1980’s the Directors Guild of America became the primary organization charged with overseeing lawful studio compliance of DGA-studio agreements to hire more women.  Extraordinarily, in two decades the numbers have not moved, except down a little.  As employment numbers among women directors continue to worsen, evidence mounts that the DGA is not capable of commanding this duty that has such broad political and cultural impact– globally.
  1. In 2004, DGA president, Michael Apted, initiated the DGA Diversity Task Force to oversee studio compliance of Guild-studio agreements to hire more women directors.  The two co-chairs and the entire membership of the “Force” were comprised of working directors who were actively seeking open-assignment directing jobs at the very studios they were supposed to be policing.  This “conflict of interest” resulted in unprecedented career success for some committee members, but from 2004 to present, the number of employed women directors actually declined.
  1. The DGA has still failed to provide the women of the DGA with comprehensive statistics relating to female director employment from 1979 to present in feature films and episodic TV even though the Guild has completed the study and the request for these statistics came through official channels in the DGA-WSC involving a motion that won majority vote and was approved by the Guild almost 2 years ago.
  1. In 2012, when several members of the WSC Events Subcommittee won unanimous vote approval for a day-long DGA SUMMIT for women directors, the WSC co-chairs, the DGA Diversity Department & the Guild leadership all actively tried to stop it.  Finally, on March 2, 2013, the DGA Women of Action Summit became the most important day for women DGA members in 30 years. The event was not covered in the broad media or industry trade magazines.
  1. The DGA claimed to have included a comprehensive proposal created by DGA women members in the 2014 DGA-studio collective bargaining negotiations, which only take place once every three years.  The results of the 2014 negotiations relating to women are as follows: “Diversity – Each of the major television studios has agreed to maintain or establish a Television Director Development Program designed to expand opportunities for directors in episodic television with an emphasis on increasing diversity.  Establishment of Industry-Wide Joint Diversity Action Committee which will meet at least once every four months.”  In other words, no change for women
  1. The DGA continues to refuse to publish articles in the “DGA Quarterly” relating to discrimination against women directors in our industry, choosing instead to occasionally celebrate and promote individual women directors.  Prior to 2011, when some women Guild members commenced efforts to create change, almost no images of women directors ever appeared in the publication, with the exception of photographs of actresses handing awards to male directors
  1. The DGA maintains a secret short-list of highly employed women directors that they submit to producers and show-runners seeking to hire more women directors.  As stated on the www.dga.org website:  “The DGA maintains a contact list of experienced women and minority directors to make it easier for producers making hiring decisions. The list can be obtained by any production company by contacting the DGA.”  If a female DGA TV director has not worked for more than 16 months, she is not included on this list.  This list unfairly advantages a tiny pool of highly employed women directors, while further marginalizing other women directors.  This policy encourages tokenism, maintains the status quo of under-representation of women directors, and is divisive to women in the Guild.
  1. The DGA further institutionalized discrimination against women in the Guild by mandating a “Working in the Trade” requirement, disqualifying women who have had difficulty getting work in preceding years from running for elected co-chairs seats on the “Women’s Steering Committee” which was specifically created in 1979 to help under-employed women directors.
  1. The Guild continues to promote diversity events and programs (celebrations, networking & fellowships) that have been proven ineffective for decades, without making any changes to their basic structures.

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