2013 DGA Women Directors Summit Notes



Edited by Maria Giese

“On March 2, the DGA’s Women’s Steering Committee (WSC) hosted an all-day event dedicated to the empowerment of women directors and the support of female voices, stories and images in film and television. Held in the Guild’s Los Angeles theater complex, the 2013 Women of Action Summit featured presentations, panels, roundtable discussions and a keynote address by actor and advocate Geena Davis. The ultimate goal of the summit was to help build a thriving coalition united in the goal of increasing employment for women DGA members.”               
DGA Website – March 2013


The day included opening remarks by Academy Award-winner and advocate, Geena Davis, who connected the need for the global proliferation of more positive images of women and girls to the immediacy of getting more women behind the camera here in Hollywood. Currently, according to the latest stats from the DGA, women only helm 5% of feature films and 15% of episodic TV shows.

Victoria Hochberg, who introduced Geena Davis set the tone for the day with a speech about the history of the DGA Women’s Committee and the need for courage and principles in the face of an industry that often does not honor the civil rights laws of our nation.  (Hochberg was one of the six who started the DGA Women’s Committee in 1979).  She reminded us of our history, spoke the difficulties involved in attaining the employment data.  In 1979 women made up one half of one percent of employed DGA directors. She spoke of getting the DGA to file a class-action lawsuit against three major studios in 1983.


OPENINGGeena Davis: The number of Women in front of the camera stagnates at 17%.  Davis is about to initiate the first Global Women in Media Study.  If the number of women in film and TV continues to rise at the rate it’s going, we will have parity in 500 years.  In family films, there is one female character for every three male characters.  Even in crowd scenes, women make up just 17%.  In films, the ratio of female key film production positions has been exactly the same since 1949.

Geena Davis: The most powerful agents of change are the women in this room.  We must feel the “Fierce urgency of the now” (Martin Luther King).


PANEL ONE: “Employment Equity Matters,” moderated by Martha Coolidge (director of 46 titles and the first and only female president of the DGA), included successful feature directors: Debbie Allen, Catherine Hardwicke, Amy Heckerling, Mimi Leder, Nancy Meyers, Robin Swicord, Betty Thomas, and Nia Vardalos.

Top women feature directors suffer discrimination as well.  It is our responsibility to speak out. “This mono-culture we’re living in is someone else’s point of view” – Robin Swicord.

We should help start a studio for women-focused films.  Producer/agent “Directors Lists” are mostly/exclusively male directors.

Debbie Allen:  “It’s action, not sitting in a room and talking. We need ACTION, ACTION, ACTION!”

Nancy Meyers: We need to support women execs.

Nia Vardalos: “Use our economic power.  Boycotts.”  

Mimi Leder: “Start an all-women studio.”

Debbie Allen suggests “…holding out, starting a movement, a revolution.”

Robin Swicord suggests we “…hire an attorney to go to court; a Federally protected civil rights case.  The DGA has the power and resources sitting right here.” 

Betty Thomas: “Stand up!”

Martha Coolidge asks: “What can we aim for to make the equity a reality?”

Mimi Leder: Aim to start a studio for women.

Amy Heckerling: For women to support women.

Debbie Allen: Create a committee for a movement.  Must have a concept, title, be viral, use economic power, inspire, and respect action.

Catherine Hardwicke: Celebrate & encourage people who do hire women.

Martha Coolidge: Utilize the internet to do our own publicity/promotion.

Nancy Meyers: Embrace all women executives at studios and meet w/studios.  Make noise wherever you can.

Robin Swicord: Employment access is a federally protected civil right.  Involve US labor bureau and hire a lawyer.  Approach the problem legally.

Audience Comments: “Never waste a connection– enlist men in the movement!”  “Recreate this SUMMIT event for general DGA population.”  “Work it like a war– military style.”


PANEL TWO: “Making the Choice for Change”

This panel was moderated by Penelope Spheeris.  It was a look into the future for women, envisioning a “paradigm shift” brought dynamic concepts for realizing equality for women directors from panelists Valerie Faris, Victoria Hochberg, Mary Lambert, Lynne Littman, Freida Mock, Kimberly Peirce as well as guests Keri Putnam (Sundance), Jennifer Siebel Newsom (Miss Representation), and Cathy Schulman (Women in Film).

Cathy Schulman:  Discrimination against women in our industry is tantamount to an economic rejection of women.

Penelope Spheeris: We need a “Rosa Parks” character to rally around.

Victoria Hochberg: We women must work together, internal fractiousness weakens women as a whole.

Lynne Littman:  “DGA Working in the Trade requirement is patently unfair to women.”

Valerie Faris: Women directors get more respect when directing with a male co-director.

Kimberly Peirce: Discrimination is worse in Hollywood than anywhere else in her experience.

Mary Lambert:  We need to think in terms of legislation.

Other Suggestions:  Have another Summit (just like this), but in Theatre 1 (much bigger).  Get more DGA men involved in our plight.  Get the power of the DGA behind us.  Make sure studios have master lists of women directors.  We need to be activists—take a stand.  DGA programs to help women across categories.  A director’s programs that emulates the AD Training Program. More DGA studio mentorships.  “We need to live like no help is coming.”  We need a business plan.  We need to litigate at the same time.

Keri Putnam: There has been no progress since 1998.  Compare gender at levels of success–there is greater parity in school, docs, as economic stakes rise less gender parity.  It’s an economic rejection of women.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom: Miss Representation, now in 38 countries, had 450 funders through crowd funding. It takes a village and there is strength in numbers.  We must remember our consumer power.

Victoria Hochberg:  WSC history.  (Under-employment of women directors) must be a leading issue in negotiations.  There has to be tension and a little bit of a threat behind it.  Business is not “polite.”

Kimberly Peirce: Attack hiring within the agency system – make “the list” more public and open.

Frieda Mock: Be strategic.

Valerie Faris:  Get the entire DGA behind this.  Look to men for demonstration of how women should be respected.  Gather statistics that show the competency of women.  Focus on the business aspects.  Convert “exceptions” into the norms.

Mary Lambert:  Change the paradigm.  There must be broad, sweeping social change.  Think in terms of legislation.

Audience Comments: We should establish a Publicity & Marketing Committee similar to the one at the WGA to promote women-directed films.


PANEL THREE: “Creating Opportunities for Women in Film & TV”

This panel was moderated by BET’s Loretha Jones. The panelists included showrunners, producers and directors, Paris Barclay, Lesli Linka Glatter, Matt Weiner, Susan Cartsonis, Betsy Thomas, Callie Khouri, and Lillah McCarthy. This group of seasoned producers is among the executives most dedicated to helping create opportunities for women directors in episodic TV.

Paris Barclay substantiates the low numbers of women directors by pointing to statistics: DGA has around 15,000 members; there are 1158 female director members;  13.48% of the DGA are women directors. Of 3,100 episodes in 2012, 15% were directed by women, which is higher than the percentage of women directors in the guild.  He suggests that from that perspective the studios can argue that they’re actually doing pretty well in terms of making “Good Faith Efforts” to hire more women.

Matthew Weiner concedes there is an institutional bias against women directors.  He predicts next generation will see improvement.  He suggests seeking directing jobs from within, for example getting work on TV shows as a script supervisor with an eye to directing at some later point.

Lillah McCarthy:  We need more women Showrunners.  Women need to empower themselves/hire themselves.

Paris Barclay: Women need advocates to “sell” them.

Susan Cartsonis: Women’s issues not taken seriously in the studio system.  All agree “Shame Campaign” works on producers/showrunners.

Audience Question:  Do producers and/or showrunners in the industry feel any responsibility to comply with BA Article 15, FLTTA Article 19?  Does Hollywood have a responsibility to act under the jurisdiction of US equal employment laws?

Paris Barclay responds:  Producers need on make “Good Faith Efforts” to show they are trying.  The fact that the number of employed women TV directors is higher than the percentage of women directors in the Guild is an indicator that their “Good Faith Efforts” are functioning.

Lillah McCarthy says producers can hire from the cast/crew.  It’s subjective, merit-based—whatever works best for the show.



These lunchtime discussions involved women directors brainstorming solutions for increasing employment for women directors based on a list of questions prepared by the organizers of the Summit.

These sessions were successful in unifying the 150 directors present.  The participants were full of ideas, strong in voicing their opinions, and generous in their desire to work toward employment equity for women directors.  Women are put in positions in which we must compete against one another for scant few jobs in an industry that discriminates against them.

Of the many ideas that emerged (including having women directors march wearing Burkas), perhaps the most significant proposals of the day were 1) hiring a lawyer to take legal action, 2) hiring a publicist to draw media attention to the problem, and 3) making an appeal to the newly appointed DGA Feature Film and Television Negotiations Committee co-chairs, Michael Apted and Thomas Schlamme, and their team (including Stephen Soderbergh and Jonathan Mostow).  It was suggested that DGA women encourage them to make equal employment for women DGA members the central issue of the 2013 DGA negotiations.


(15 Tables, 10 Participants at Each Table)

  1. How do we make the DGA care about equity for women in the DGA?
  2. How do we incorporate the press into our effort?  Get a publicist.
  3. Hire a labor lawyer, someone who women are going to love – Jay Roth?
  4. Demand more from the Guild to enforce compliance of DGA studio agreements to hire more women (BA Article 15 & FLTTA Article 19).  Get staff members positioned to enforce these agreements.  Hit the studios HARD with fines for being out of compliance.
  5. Petition Michael Apted, Thomas Schlamme, Steven Soderberg and Jonathan Mostow to make employment equity the primary focus of the 2013 DGA negotiations.
  6. Introduce a regular segment into the DGA Quarterly magazine discussing parity for women.  Do the same on the official DGA website.
  7. Celebrate shows that hire women directors.  Start a “Thank You” letter writing campaign to personally thank any network, producer, showrunner, etc, who hires a woman director.8. 2020 is the 100th Year Centennial of Women’s Suffrage.  Start a 50/50 in 2020 Women Directors Campaign.  If women are 50% of the population, why do we make up only 5% or 15% of the directors?9. Create a short film and other media-oriented pieces that illustrate the number of productions that were directed by men versus the number that were directed by women.  Give a visual example of how disproportionate it really is.

    10. Communicate to women in America.  Use our collective power to boycott or reward companies depending on their level of support of women.

    11. Ask your agent for studio/producer “Directors Lists” when they say there are no women on them. Take action on the “Directors Lists.”  Add women to all lists.

    12. Affirmative Action: Set goals and timetables to hire more women directors.

    13. Unify each of the many women’s entertainment organizations/unions to define our shared concerns and objectives.

    14. Contribute $10 each to go towards the hiring of a lawyer (and/or publicist) to support a media/legal action effort to get more women directors working.

    15. Plan protests.  Promote publicity.  Start a campaign to create a paradigm shift.

    16. Encourage all WSC members to join the WSC Facebook forum.

    17. Examine DGA/Studio agreements designed to make studios hire more women: “Good Faith Efforts” aren’t good enough.

    18. Ask the ACLU to get involved.

    19. The problem must be approached legally through the federal government. Pursue the EEOC to investigate mitigation of industry discrimination against women.

    20. Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title 7 is about hiring. Look into legislature and Federal laws to examine why Hollywood appears to see itself as existing outside the jurisdiction of US Civil Rights Equal Employment laws.

    21. Request a DGA Women’s Contact List.

    22. Request DGA statistics on women’s employment be released.

    23. Create a petition from the WSC to request that our issues be the 2013 priority in negotiation

    24. Start a campaign to encourage all female DGA members to show up at the annual meeting and sit together as a block to show a visual representation of our power, unity, and membership.  Try everything, even “march wearing burkas”!

    25. Improve communications between DGA women members.

    26. Initiate a Super-Committee outside of the Guild consisting of women members from all industry women’s organizations and guilds.

    27. Write Manifesto for Women Directors.

    28. Look to the men who have daughters, to help promote our cause.



 Note: This March 2, 2013 DGA Summit was created & organized by five DGA members: Dianne Bartlow (chair); Rachel Feldman; Maria Giese; Sandra Milliner; Melanie Wagor.

For more information contact: aegisfilms@earthlink.net


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