The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has begun an official investigation into the lack of women behind the cameras on Hollywood movie sets.
The EEOC has reportedly sent letters to roughly 50 female directors urging them to share any stories they may have of facing discrimination in the workplace, reports Deadline.
“We greatly appreciate your willingness to share your personal stories and the obstacles which you have faced in pursuit of success within your profession,” reads the letter sent out last week by the EEOC’s Marla Stern-Knowlton.
In its letter, the organization said it would “continue to vigorously enforce Title VII’s nondiscrimination requirements. Title VII prohibits covered employers from discriminating on the basis of sex.”
Several of the women who received the letter voiced their support of the federal investigation.
“I would like the EEOC to take legal action against the studios, the networks and the commercial production companies to make them comply with the law,” commercial director Lori Precious told Deadline. “I hope they force people to change the way they do business because Hollywood is not exempt from the law.”
Producer Melanie Wagor, who also received the letter from the EEOC, told Variety that “everybody is ecstatic and really thankful for the ACLU and the EEOC for taking this seriously.”
In May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lobbied the EEOC to investigate the “systemic failure” of the film industry to hire female directors. The civil rights organization circulated a petition among Hollywood professionals that laid out its primary concern: of the 1,300 top-grossing films spanning a 12-year period between 2002-2014, just 4.1% were directed by women.
“Our goal is to show the civil rights enforcement agencies that a significant number of people who are women directors or work with women directors want this long-running civil rights problem to be fixed,” the petition read.
The ACLU had also collected interviews from about 50 female directors, at least some of whom will now be interviewed by the EEOC as it works on an investigation.
“Your name was provided to our agency by Melissa Goodman with the ACLU,” the EEOC’s letter reads. “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. Please note that these interviews will be considered confidential. At your earliest opportunity, please contact me and let me know your availability so that we can schedule a date and time for your interview.”
While film and television studios appear for now to be the primary target of the federal investigation, the original ACLU petition also criticized talent agencies and the Director’s Guild of America for “ineffective” efforts to promote the hiring of more women, some of which “may perpetuate discrimination.”
The DGA defended itself at the time the ACLU drive was launched, saying in a statement that the guild “has been a long-standing advocate pressuring the industry to do the right thing, which is to change their hiring practices and hire more women and minority directors.”
“Unfortunately we are not in a position to comment on the recent reports beyond to say that we have met with the three agencies and are encouraged by those conversations,” ACLU spokesperson Crystal Cooper told Breitbart News in a statement.