‘O Womaniya’ 2022 report shows low female representation in films, series

The O Womaniya report highlights on-screen and off-screen representation of women, by analysing 150 theatrical films, streaming films and series released in 2021.

Mumbai: Findings of an extensive study indicate that representation of women in senior roles behind the camera, as well as in corporate leadership, is as low as 10 per cent in the Indian film and OTT sectors, according to an O Womaniya report.

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The report ‘O Womaniya’ 2022, on female representation in Indian entertainment, was released Thursday by Media consulting firm, Ormax Media and entertainment platform, Film Companion.

The O Womaniya report highlights on-screen and off-screen representation of women, by analysing 150 theatrical films, streaming films and series released in 2021 across 8 Indian languages, including Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati.

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The O Womaniya report studied the representation and participation of women across three major categories – ‘content’ that included female representation on-screen and behind-the-camera, ‘marketing’ that studied female representation in promotional trailers of films and series, and ‘corporate’ that analysed female representation in board rooms of top 25 media and entertainment firms.

Key findings of the O Womaniya report point to the low representation of women behind the camera with only 10 per cent of head of department (HOD) positions across key divisions such as production design, writing, editing, direction and cinematography, held by women.

Out of the 56 theatrical films analysed across languages, not even one was directed or edited by a woman. Even in media and entertainment corporate houses, that are at the centre of decision-making, only 10 per cent of senior leadership roles were held by women, having a cascading effect on inclusivity through the production and execution chain.

The O Womaniya report also highlights their low representation on-screen.

Only 55 per cent of the films and series passed the Bechdel Test. Even in promotional trailers analysed through the Trailer Talk Time Test, women had only 25 per cent talk time with 48 titles even allocating 10 seconds or less to female characters.

The O Womaniya study findings also indicate that women hire more women. The percentage of female HODs doubled when a woman greenlit a series or a film. Similarly, a higher percentage of films passed the Bechdel Test (68 per cent) and women had higher trailer talk time (35 per cent) if the title was commissioned by a woman.

Shailesh Kapoor, Founder-CEO, Ormax Media, said: “While it’s no surprise that female representation in mainstream entertainment is low, the degree of skew, such as 10:90 on some key parameters, should be a wake-up call. While streaming titles, especially series, are more women-inclusive in on and off-screen representation, theatrical films continue to perform very poorly, and in fact, have shown no positive growth at all since the previous report, which covered content released in 2019 & 2020.”

Streaming films and series performed better than theatrical films across all parameters indicating the change the sector is ushering in representation on and off-screen. For instance, the representation of female HODs in streaming films and series was five times higher than in theatrical films. Similarly, 64 per cent of streaming series and 55 per cent of streaming films passed the Bechdel Test, as opposed to more than half of theatrical films failing it. Likewise, streaming films and series provided more talk time to female characters in trailers, leading theatrical films by 10 percentage points and 14 percentage points respectively.

Sunitha Rangaswami, an independent consultant on gender and women’s economic empowerment provided counsel on making the Indian entertainment industry more inclusive for women.

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Indo-Asian News Service or IANS is a private Indian news agency. It was founded in 1986 by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the "India Abroad News Service" and later renamed. The service reports news, views and analysis from the subcontinent about the country, across a wide range of subjects.
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