We all have the power as individuals to turn our complaints into action and our concerns into change. That’s the message of the Time’s Up campaign, and that’s why I made a commitment during the Golden Globes to ensure that, within two years, women make up 50 percent of the crew for projects I produce.
We can't say there isn't a market for women in film. Women continue to make up the majority of moviegoers: According to the Motion Picture Association of America’s recent findings, women made up 52 percent of all 2016 moviegoers — an increase from 2015’s 51 percent. That’s right, women (51 percent of the population) continue to outnumber men at movie theaters, which makes the gender disparity onscreen and behind the scenes even more frustrating.
I know how difficult fulfilling this commitment is going to be, especially when women are constantly hearing that they aren't being hired for male-dominated positions because of lack of experience. We will have to push through the objections of studio executives who might turn down a woman by constantly reminding them that every person who has had success and every person who has a lengthy résumé had to have their first shot. We have to give more first shots.
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I’m proud to know many men who have already stepped up with help, encouragement and commitments to build diverse crews, but it is going to take many more understanding that it is not OK for them to stand back when they need to be lifting someone up. And women already in the industry cannot think of new colleagues as competition; women need to work together to give a hand up to the next women behind them.
Too little progress for far too long
Over the course of my career, the industry has not changed as much as I would have hoped. But I’ve changed.
When I first started shooting “227” as a young girl in 1984, all of our directors were male. I never considered the possibility of a woman being a director, much less that I would one day work behind the camera myself. It wasn’t until I was in my teens and Ellen Chaset Falcon directed an episode of “227” that I had even heard of a female director.
Then I learned trailblazers like Debbie Allen directed “A Different World”, and the scope of what was possible for women expanded for me.
I’m not the only young girl who has felt that way, and Hollywood is not the only industry where women are underrepresented. We can be so conditioned to see things only a certain way that you begin to think that’s how it is supposed to be. Even today, we still need to shine a light on women who are accomplishing things in male-dominated situations.
There is so much work to do. A new report from San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that women accounted for just 20 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers in the 250 top-grossing films. Only 1 percent of films employed 10 or more women in these top roles, while 74 percent employed 10 or more men.
In the 20 years that the center has analyzed our most popular films, there has been little improvement, even though female-driven movies made more money in recent years than male-driven films.
These statistics sit with me; they sit on my spirit. They should sit with all of us.
Change begins when you challenge yourself
If we are going to make a difference in Hollywood — and every other industry where women are underrepresented — it will require more people making commitments to themselves to make a difference, no matter how small or how big that commitment is. This isn’t simply a woman’s issue: If you love your mama, then you need to be part of this movement.
You don’t need to make your pledge on a big stage like I did at the Golden Globes. Use the microphone and the platform you have, of any size, in any industry, to bring more attention to female-centric accomplishments. Film lovers can commit, for example, to see at least three films written and directed by a woman every year. Make a commitment to post on social media about a film directed by a woman, or a show created by a woman. Both the big and the small move the needle.
I’m using my power and the relationships I’ve garnered in the past 30 years to help move that needle. I’ve made a public pledge about the concerns that sit on my heart. Now, it is up to everyone, particularly those who are in a position of power in their industries, to challenge yourself and stand with us in solidarity. The clock has run out on inequality in the workplace. It’s Time’s Up — times two.
Regina King is an award-winning actress, director and producer. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaKing.
As told to Voices editor Kelsey Bloom, a member of USA TODAY's Editorial Board.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Regina King: Golden Globes pledge on gender equality is only the start