Women make up less than 20 per cent of directors getting work in Canada: report

When it comes to both feature films and television done in Canada, men are involved with directing at least 84 per cent of them, if not more, according to a report on gender inequality amongst Canadian directors.

40-page study points to significant gender discrepancy when it comes to Canadian women behind the lens

Irish director Aisling Walsh (left) with Sally Hawkins on the set of the Canadian co-production Maudie, filmed in Newfoundland. (Mongrel Media)

When it comes to feature films and television programs shot in Canada, men are involved with directing at least 84 per cent of the available work, if not more, according to a report on gender inequality amongst Canadian directors.

"Something is very, very wrong with this picture," Amanda Coles, the author of the report and a Canadian scholar in cultural management, told CBC News in a phone interview from Australia.

Coles, a department head at the University of Melbourne, prepared the 40-page report for the group Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen. She spoke to 18 men and women directors in Canada.

When a female director succeeds, it is a happy accident.-Amanda Coles, in her report on women directors prepared for CUES

She found that in cases when women are behind the lens, the pressure to succeed is much higher.

"When male directors under-perform either on set or in the box office, their failures are individualized," the report states."The converse is true for female directors. When a female director succeeds, it is a happy accident. A poor performance for female directors is generalized and gendered."

The conclusions might not surprise a lot of people, but they add to a growing pile of documentation on gender imbalance in the entertainment industry.

A recent report done by researchers at the University of Southern California showed how unequal representation is for women and minorities on screen in Hollywood, with little change on the horizon.

American productions shot in Canada that used a Canadian director were included in Coles' report.

Out of a select seven major U.S. TV shows shot in Canada between 2014 and 2015, three, including Hannibal and The Strain, didn't hire any female directors. The other four shows, including Hemlock Grove and 12 Monkeys, used one.

Researcher Amanda Coles noted how few women directors have been used for television shows shot in Canada between 2014-15. (Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen)

Women directors get caught in a "hideous loop," Coles says, whereby they have no experience so they're considered a risk. But because they're considered a risk, they can't get experience.

"It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

The report recommends that gender equality become a more firm policy for public institutions, a funding incentive, and  the industry should track progress to maintain an eye on key metrics.

She says if you compare current numbers to previous decades, "the needle hasn't moved substantially at all." Yet studies have shown that more diversity and gender equality on projects actually leads to higher profits.

"We have a lot of data. We don't have to argue that there's a problem anymore. We know that there's a problem. We know that it's, in fact, a global problem. The question we need to seriously address is why."

With files from the Associated Press