Federal Employment Agency Is Officially Investigating Gender Discrimination in Hollywood

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Back in May, we told you about the ACLU’s Film Equality campaign, in which the organization reached out to several state and federal agencies, encouraging them to investigate the systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and television industry. (We’ve written about the numbers before; they’re dismal.) And now at least one of those organizations is investigating further: Deadline reports the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has set up interviews with dozens of female directors next week, the first step in determining the extent of the issue, and how to fix it.

When they took up the cause, ACLU adopted a new approach to this perpetually upsetting disparity, framing it not as an entertainment issue, but as a social and legal one.“We think that this discrimination is a civil rights issue,” Ariela Migdal, a senior staff attorney with the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU, told Flavorwire in May. “And that’s why we’ve asked our civil rights enforcement agencies to get involved. We’ve asked them to look into the systemic bias here—and what that means is, it’s not just, your boss fired you because you’re a woman, but it’s entrenched in your industry, or there’s a handful of big studios and other employers that are involved. So it’s not one person that did something wrong; the whole hiring system is off in this industry.”

The letter to potential interview subjects, sent on October 1 by Marla Stern-Knowlton (Systemic Supervisor of the Los Angeles district office of the EEOC), reads in part:

Your name was provided to our agency by Melissa Goodman with the ACLU. Ms. Goodman has advised the EEOC that you would be willing to speak with us, so that we may learn more about the gender-related issues which you are facing in both the Film and Television Industries. To that end, I would like to begin coordinating dates and times for these interviews, to take place during the month of October at our Los Angeles District Office.

If the EEOC finds evidence of systemic discrimination, the industry could find itself the target of a class-action lawsuit and greater oversight in hiring practices.