Though the number of lead female roles rose in 2015, Hollywood is still failing its women of colour

Though 2015 saw significant improvement in the number of lead roles held by women, that statistic did not change for those of colour. 

Clarisse Loughrey
Wednesday 10 February 2016 14:17 GMT

2015 may have been considered a benchmark year for women in film, but not for its women of colour. A hollow victory, then, and a mark of how much work is still to be done.

Though the number of lead roles played by women may have risen by 10% over the past year, that statistic didn't extend to actors from minority backgrounds; as revealed by a report conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, covering the top 100-grossing films at the US box office. Overall, women comprised of only 22% of protagonists, the highest since the survey's initiation in 2002 recorded its previous best at 18%.

Yet, that change was barely seen amongst women of colour; the increase was only slight amongst Black female characters, unchanged amongst Latina characters, and slightly decreased amongst Asian female characters. Furthermore, they were less likely to be featured as a significant character; only 27% had major roles, as opposed to 38% amongst white females.

These statistics seem only to echo the frustrations felt amongst the #OscarsSoWhite movement, where both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories are occupied only by white nominees; it's another level to consider in the discussion of how the awards both reflect industry happenings, and further help to cement them by promoting a lack of diversity as standard.

The survey also discovered the majority of female characters to be in their 20s and 30s, as opposed to a male majority in their 30s and 40s; as well as revealing men were more likely to be seen at work, and provided with identifiable goals.

The box office successes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road may have hailed 2015 as victorious for women in film, but these statistics remain vital in understanding progress in the future needs both to be inclusive and decisive.

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