Oscars Still Dominated by Men

Despite recent efforts to improve diversity, new research shows how skewed the Academy has been over the past quarter of a century.


When actress Jennifer Lawrence spoke out after it was discovered that she was paid less than her male American Hustle co-stars, it sparked yet another soul search among Hollywood as to the continuous discrimination that has been prevalent throughout its existence.

In recent years, the Academy has made progress in addressing this woeful imbalance, yet female actors are still far less likely to take on a solo lead role in the big Oscar winning films. Over the past 25 years and 25 Best Picture winners. There has not been a single film in which there was a solo female lead. Brand new research shown in the infographic reveals that 18 of the past 25 Best Picture winners have had a solo male lead. When women have had a leading role, it is one they have had to share with a man.

This is not to say women cannot pull off truly amazing performances. Think Julianne Moore in 2014’s Still Alice, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress but that was the only nomination and award win for the film. Cinema is littered with amazing female roles in films that were either not nominated or did not win the top prize itself. On top of this, in 88 Academy Award ceremonies, only one female director has won the Oscar for directing. Kathryn Bigelow in 2013.

When these Oscar winning films brought individual success for the actors in them, even here, it was skewed in favour of men. The infographic shows only two leading ladies walked off with the top honour whilst 5 men received the male equivalent of Best Actor. And whilst there were 5 wins Best Supporting Actress vs 4 equivalent awards for mem, that only backs up the fact that women are not seen to be able to hold their own on the same scale as men.

The graphic above shows that from the 25 leading or co-leading male actors in the last 25 years’ worth of Best Picture winners, their average age stands at 42, with age ranges from 22 to 74. For women though that age gap is much narrower, albeit the average can only be taken from the seven women who were co-leads. It also shows that their average age is a full 10 years less than for men with the gap between the youngest (22) and the oldest (41) being substantially smaller.

What conclusion can we draw from this? Well, that Hollywood continues to have a reluctance to putting women in leading roles on their own. Consider the success when this has happened. For example, Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games. A massive franchise which revolved almost entirely around her. But this is still an exception. It’s maybe not surprising. Recent figures show that the members of the Academy who vote for the winners of the famous statues are 76% male as well as 94% white. This coupled with the scandalous “Oscar’s So White” scandal led Academy president Cheryl Boone-Isaacs to pledge to double the number of women and ethnic minorities by 2020.