Women of Color See Gains in Top-Grossing Movie Roles in 2022

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As awards season moves forward, the discussion surrounding how creatives of color and their projects are repeatedly snubbed by awards bodies continues, most recently and notably including Viola Davis’ “The Woman King”; but a new study from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has noticed an increase for women of color in leading roles across the top-grossing movies of 2022.

Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative conducted a new research study examining the gender, race, ethnicity and age of lead and co-lead actors across the 100 top-grossing movies each year from 2007 to 2022, in the Inequality Across 1,600 Popular Films: Examining Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Age of Leads/Co-Leads From 2007 to 2022 study.

The study found that throughout 2022, women of color were either leads or co-leads in a total of 16% of the 100 top-grossing films. This is an increase from 2021, which totaled 11%. The 16-year study discovered that 2022 had the highest number of underrepresented women and non-binary people as leads and co-leads.

“The progress for women of color in leading roles is encouraging,” said Dr. Smith. “It’s past time for the film industry to recognize that stories about women of color have a place in theaters. Girls and women of color are 20% of the U.S. population, but the film industry has not ensured that this is what audiences see on screen. With effort and accountability, this threshold is one that not only can be achieved but easily surpassed.”

The study’s lead author, Katherine L. Neff, added “The lack of progress for women and people of color in leading roles for yet another year is disappointing. The film industry must recognize that even though the stories it creates features fantastic locations, audiences in this world still want to be reflected on screen.”

See some of the top findings below.

People of Color in 2022’s 100 top-grossing films

  • 29% of all leads or co-leads in 2022 films.
  • There has been a slight increase overtime, from 13% in 2007 to 29% in 2022.
  • This marks a decrease from 2021, with a total of 32%.

Female leads and co-leads

  • There was no strong change between 2022 and 2021, with 2022 at a total of 44% and 2021 at a total of 41%.
  • Since 2007, films starring a female-identified leads or co-leads have roughly doubled in size, from 20% to 44%.

Leads and co-leads who are 45 and older

  • 35 films in 2022 featured men 45 and above.
  • 10 films in 2022 featured women 45 and above, five of which featured a woman of color. This is an increase from 2021’s seven films and 2007’s one film.

Major and mini-major distributors inclusion of people of color and/or women in the top 100 grossing films

  • 75% of Lionsgate films starred female leads or co-leads
  • Paramount had a total of 55.6%
  • Universal had a total of 38.5%
  • Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. Pictures each totaled roughly around 33%

Read the fully study here.

Women of Color See Gains in Top-Grossing Movie Roles in 2022

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