Academic journal article Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy

Celluloid and Silicon Ceilings: Underinvestment in Women Directors and Entrepreneurs

Academic journal article Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy

Celluloid and Silicon Ceilings: Underinvestment in Women Directors and Entrepreneurs

Article excerpt

"In the absence of water, people drink sand. And that is sad. There's such an interest in things being equal and such a weary acceptance that it's not."  - Shonda Rhimes, October 2015 (1) 


California is the American mecca for creativity and invention. As the home of Jackie Robinson, (2) Chief Justice Earl Warren, (3) and the Free Speech Movement, (4) the Golden State has been a driving force for progressive thought in American culture. (5) Its politics are decidedly leftist: Both of the state's U.S. senators and 64% of congressional representatives are Democrats, and Democrats have strong majorities in both state legislative houses and hold all eight elected statewide offices. (6) President Obama won 61% of the statewide vote in 2008, (7) and won California again in 2012. (8) In part because of its leftist politics, California has aggressive anti-discrimination statutes (9) and broad reproductive choice laws aimed at promoting, among other things, women's full participation in the state's economy. (10) Even the official state slogan demands that visitors "Dream Big." (11)

Nowhere better represents this uniquely Californian attitude of creative invention than Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The world leaders in both entertainment and entrepreneurship--Los Angeles (12) and the Bay Area (13)--bookend the state. Beyond the geographical coincidence of sharing California, both Hollywood and Silicon Valley rely on talent, fierce competition, and reputational capital, a point highlighted by the fact that many powerful players in the entertainment industry have recently migrated into the entrepreneurship space. (14) More specifically, both the entertainment industry and entrepreneurial space require that a lot of money changes hands before a successful product is made. Just as an entrepreneur cannot effectively grow an emerging company towards viability without successfully raising capital from Venture Capitalists (VC), (15) financial support from studios or producers is key to creating a successful film. (16)

The entertainment industry and entrepreneurial space also share a more problematic characteristic: Both are disproportionately dominated by men. In California's two most famous regions, California's promise of self-advancement and equal opportunity seems to be more difficult for women to achieve.

This note looks to examine why women are less likely to have their films or companies funded and correspondingly, how the law might address that gender disparity. For the purposes of this note, Hollywood represents the entertainment industry and specifically, the film industry. Similarly, Silicon Valley refers to the entrepreneurial hotbed of the Bay Area.

Part I of this note describes the lack of women in positions of power in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Part II examines the structural similarities between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and how those structural characteristics contribute to the gender disparity in both areas. In particular, this note looks at those structural similarities as they impact women directors and women entrepreneurs, and in turn shape the movies that get produced and companies that succeed.

Part III discusses the ongoing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into Hollywood, outlines a potential EEOC suit against Hollywood studios, and predicts how that investigation might shape Hollywood's hiring practices to ultimately increase gender equality in the film industry. Finally, this note proposes how the same legal arguments that address the gender disparity in Hollywood might be applied to address Silicon Valley's gender disparity.


A. Hollywood's Representational Ghetto for Women

"Their refusal to hire more female directors is immoral, maybe illegal, and has helped create and sustain a representational ghetto for women. … 
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