Chipping Away at the Celluloid Ceiling

02/16/2011 10:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Just a year after Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to take the stage and accept the Oscar for best director for The Hurt Locker, I was surprised to read recently published findings by SDSU's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. It was sobering to say the very least, to read that a woman is more likely to serve as a member of the clergy or hold a seat on the board of a Fortune 500 company than she is to be hired as a director in Hollywood. Add to this Catherine Hardwicke's contention that she was overlooked as a possible director for The Fighter based solely on her gender, and it would be easy to paint a very grim picture of gender equality, or inequality as it were, in Tinseltown.

Obviously statistics don't lie, but the numbers alone do not tell the whole story. It's hard to believe, but just a century ago when the major studios first formed, American women still didn't have the right to vote. Around 1910 during the silent film era, one of the only creative opportunities available to women was working as a "joiner," patiently organizing and splicing together strips of silent film in one of the studio's editorial rooms. In 1920, women won the right to vote and, ironically, a few years later when sound film was introduced, the studios cleaned house of all the female "joiners" and hired men to craft sound films.

Less than a 100 years after women editors were given their walking papers, we have women being recognized for their creativity in almost every category of the Oscars. The Kids are All Right and Winter's Bone, two very unique and powerful feminine stories are both nominated for Best Picture. Lisa Cholodenko and Debra Granik, who respectively wrote and directed the films, are also nominated in the Best Screenplay category for their writing.

The journey from the page to the big screen is a long one requiring patience, nurturing and collaboration. So I was not at all surprised to see the seemingly unprecedented number of women producers behind 2010's biggest films. Just to name a few -- Darla Anderson for Toy Story 3, Emma Thomas for Inception, Cean Chaffin for The Social Network, and Bonnie Arnold for How to Train Your Dragon.

I would love to see the studios and television networks recognize the talent of even more women behind the camera. I believe our role as women in this effort starts with not being discouraged by percentages. Like the suffragists who a century ago created a movement that earned us the right to vote, we should celebrate the accomplishments of women in film and television today and continue chipping away at the celluloid ceiling to pave the way for other future generations of women storytellers.