Fey-Seagal Scale: The Truth About Sexism in Film Production

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Tina Fey, who New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) honored at its 2005 Muse Awards, is in the news again. This time it’s not a brand-new project or further mention of her nonexistent sequel to Hocus Pocus. Instead, Fey has had a grading scale named after her: the Fey-Seagal Scale. Producer and writer Stephen Follows recently released a study, “Gender Within Film Crews,” which examines the gender divide in the top 2,000 grossing films of the last 20 years (1994-2013).

The statistics are not shocking to those who are well versed in what’s happening behind the scenes in the industry. When Follows looked at all crew members on those 2,000 films, he found that only 22.6% were women. If you’ve worked in film or television in any capacity you’ve seen firsthand the skewed ratios. Still, what’s particularly disappointing is that there has not been a large jump in the percentage of women on film crews from 1994 until today. If anything, the percentage of women working behind the scenes has shrunk. According to Follows’ data, in 1994, the overall percentage of female crew members was 22.7%. In 2013, it decreased to 21.8%. In other words, on most studio films only about one out of every five crew members is a woman.

To further the depressing news, the percentage of women hired to be writers, producers, editors, animators, and directors has decreased over the last twenty years. The only fields that have seen growth have been roles within the makeup, art, and costume departments. But where does Fey come in? As part of his study Follows looked at how many women were involved behind the scenes for each film. He found that although the average hovered around the 22% range, there was a large continuum. On one end was Fey, whose crew for Mean Girls was 42% female. On the other end was Steven Seagal, with an On Deadly Ground crew that was only 10% female. Hence the moniker the Fey-Seagal Scale. 

It’s great that Fey is in the news again, but wouldn’t it be even better if the percentage of female crew members that she hires wasn’t news at all? At NYWIFT, a key part of our mission revolves around the promotion and better inclusion of women in all aspects of the industry. You can find additional statistics on Follows’ blog, with an option to sign up to receive the full report.

— EMMA THOMAS

Thomas is the Development Assistant at New York Women in Film & Television.

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