It's hardly a secret that women are underrepresented in many parts of the entertainment industry -- and according to new research, female screenwriters aren't immune to this gender gap.
Researcher Susana Orozoco found that women screenwriters' scripts currently make up a smaller percentage of speculative script sales than any time in the last two decades. Spec scripts -- scripts written without compensation based on the hope of selling the final product on the open market -- are currently on the decline across the board in Hollywood. A March 2013 Vanity Fair article pointed to recent industry changes, such as the collapse of home-video sales (which once compensated for low box-office returns) and studios' increasing interest in film franchises like "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" as some of the sources of waning interest in spec scripts.
But these industry changes hardly explain the gender imbalance amongst screenwriters of spec scripts that are picked up and, as Orozoco's research demonstrates, female screenwriters are being hit especially hard. Orzoco found that between 1991 and 2000, women wrote 14 percent of spec scripts sold and only 9 percent between 2010 and 2012.
This decline in female-written spec scripts doesn't just mean fewer professional opportunities for women hoping to break into the film industry, but also indicates that films which authentically depict women's lives may be even harder to come by than they already are. "Thelma & Louise," an iconic film about female empowerment, was written by female screenwriter Callie Khouri on spec. More recently, "Hope Springs," a film that dared to openly delve into the topic of post-50 female sexuality, was also written by a female spec screenwriter, Vanessa Taylor.
The entertainment industry is notorious for it's pathetic representation of women in all realms. For example, the Women's Media Center found that in 2012, women comprised only 18 percent of key behind -the-scenes roles in films -- a figure that has risen a mere 1 percent since 1998. These new statistics are disheartening, but they're also a great reminder to support the female screenwriters whose scripts are produced when it counts: at the box office on opening weekend.