The “very good students”

The countries in this category can be considered as the “very good students”: they have faced up to the problem of gender inequality among male and female directors with incisive and extensive measures that have ambitious objectives. These are the countries where we can see the policies bearing fruit, as there is a relatively higher proportion of female film directors active in the industry and there are significant trans-generational developments. In this category we can place three countries: Sweden Norway and Switzerland, all countries from the north and west of Europe.


With its 2016 statistics Sweden becomes the country with the best results concerning the proportion of female film directors (an average of 38% in 2016), the greatest trans-generational change (a deviation of 16.3 points between the proportion of female directors in old generations and young generations), and as far as the policies implemented are concerned.

Since 2012 Sweden has implemented several action plans that reveal a real change of attitude on the question. “Towards a Gender Equal Film production” of 2012, the “Film Agreement” of 2013 and the 2016 implementation of a plan of action at the Cannes Film Festival that runs until 2020. The Swedish policies are numerous and global, encompassing financing, encouragement, awareness building and information. As well as undertaking short-term policies the SFI intends to deal with the issue in a long-term manner by addressing the issue with film students and the problem of fewer female students considering directing than male students. The institute is also undertaking a retrospective study into the development of the proportion of female film directors active since the year 2000.

These positive results are also thanks to an investment in the question of gender equality that has for a long time been part of the debate in the society, and a culture that accepted the quotas that are still resisted in many countries.


Along with Sweden, Norway has one of the most comprehensive series of policies. An action plan for gender equality in Norwegian film was implemented and is regularly updated. The aim of the Norwegian Film Institute is to create stable and lasting gender equality in the Norwegian film industry, collaborating to this end with the industry and educational establishments. The institute is implementing short-term and long-term measures, using three major paths of proactive policy: the recruitment of female talent, the hiving-off of funds for female directors (in parallel encouraging more women to apply for them), and the implementation of moderate quotas. In long-term policies the institute is investing in policies of information and awareness building.

This dual-focus policy translates into very positive results in terms of global proportions of female film directors and trans-generational development. Last year Norway was the country with the highest proportion of female directors, but has, this year, been taken over by Sweden. On the other hand, our current study shows that Norway is still the country where the number of female film directors from generation 1 is the highest (40%)


Switzerland seems to have been late in accepting a need to do something for its female film directors. The first study into the matter was commissioned in 2015, which revealed the numerous obstacles (in terms of projects applying for funding, and the funding allocated), and the agency for the promotion of Swiss film has since committed itself to adopting several measures to ensure greater cultural diversity. This includes systematic global, annual and long-term research and analysis into the figures of financial support in relation to gender, as well as to developing mechanisms for increased equality in Swiss film with the help of national and international specialists, as well as the promotion of films directed by women. Waiting for these measures to be implemented, the country shows positive averages concerning the global proportion of female directors (it is ranked 6th) and trans-generational change (the proportion of female directors doubles from the old generation to the young).

Countries with a positive cultural impact

Two countries that can be counted among the “good students” as they present proportions of films directed by women generally above average and show positive development over the generations, without the implementation of particular policies or proactive concerning the issue: Germany and France.


Last year no single policy was implemented concerning this matter, but during 2017 Germany began an awareness building policy that took into account gender equality in the nomination of the members to the German Federal Filmboard and commissioned an academic investigation into gender and film production. However Germany has implemented no hard quotas or privileging systems for the moment.

Ranked among the countries with a good cultural impact, Germany is one of the four top countries concerning the proportion of female directors across the generations, with more than one in four films directed by a woman. Concerning trans-generational developments, Germany also shows good results, and is ranked the fourth country for women who directed films from generation 1. Of the women directors who released a film in 2016 62% were directing their first or second film.


The Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (CNC) explained that there is no particular funding or promotion policy. No quotas are in place concerning public funding and projects are judged solely on their quality. Despite this we have been able to note a decent situation in terms of gender equality at the CNC with parity in several committees and the presence of women in key posts. There are also two studies on the position of women in the film industry.

France is among the “good students” in terms of the proportion of female film directors in general (23.8%), although this figure has declined in the last two years, from 26% during the first years of the study to 20% in 2015. We note a similar trend among the films from generations 1 and 2 with good proportions in 2012 – 2014 (about 29%) and a decline in 2015 – 2016 (about 24%). We can state that, considering its significant film production (the most prolific in Europe, thereby weighing on the European average), and with its figures that are in general above the European average, France remains one of the countries with a positive cultural impact. However, the lack of proactive policies seems to be resulting in a decline in the proportions of female directors across the different generations which should lead one to question the position of France as a country of general positive cultural impact.

So it can be assumed that France’s good ranking can be attributed not to a series of policies but to a cultural context that is relatively positive for female emancipation and professional development. When we speak of impact it is also in terms of the significant film production output from France and Germany.

Countries with stable development

In contrast with the previous category, here we find countries that have a national average less than the European one but which, thanks to well established policies in the last few years shown a significant improvement. In this category are Belgium, Spain, Ireland, and this year Poland.


In Belgium, Wallonia implemented active policies (soft quotas, coaching schemes, relationship schemes) that reveal a desire to get to grips with the problem. As well as the actions undertaken by the national film institution we can also see a powerful mobilisation on the part of the female film directors themselves. In 2017 125 Belgian female directors demanded active policies such as changes to the criteria for the allocation of funding.

On the contrary, Flanders did not implement any proactive policy (no quotas) or any awareness campaign yet, but the Film institute of Flanders tries to reach parity in its selection committees, what influences a lot the process of selection (there is an awareness building on the topic, particularly regarding the awarding of the feminine roles). The Flanders audiovisual fund explained us, as we contacted it for the study, that 2016 was a relatively “poor” year in terms of feature films directed by Fleming women. However, women are more present in the direction of documentaries.

To conclude the case of Belgium, we can see that these policies seem to be bearing fruit as this country is globally showing an increase in the proportion of female film directors. Ranked 16th last year it is now in 14th place. In 2016, Wallonia attained its highest proportion of female film directors of the entire period of the study. In parallel Belgium is showing positive trans-generational change: over the five years of the study we can see a stable increase in the proportion of female directors of films in generation 1.


The situation is Spain has remained stable since last year, notably in terms of the global proportion of female directors. The country is ranked at 24th, below the European average, but nevertheless showing a positive trans-generational development. The proportion of female directors in the young generations and in particular in generation 1 is higher than in the older generations. The difference isn’t great, which suggests that the country is on the path of positive but slow change.

This is due to the proactive policies implements in Spain over the last ten years. Spain was an early adopter of gender issue measures as the ICAA (Instituto de Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales) pointed out to us, and the initial measures (an academic study of the question, and the creation of the CIMA web site) and the law concerning the film industry were passed in 2007 and 2008. But there have been very few new measures adopted since then.


Ireland has one of the most active development and implementation of policies in this issue, especially since 2016. Our earlier study already examined the six-point action plan that the Irish Film Board had decided to embark upon in December 2015, with a view to 2020. This plan begun following a public proclamation made by Dr Annie Doona about the underrepresentation of women in Irish film. The six points of the action plan cover various fields of policy: information, funding, training and mentoring, as well as education, to achieve all of which the IFB worked with a large number of different partners.

In 2017 we noted that the IFB continued and even intensified this policy direction with new measures, especially of mentoring and the setting aside of funding. At the same time the question of women in the film industry is increasingly discussed with, notably, the creation of a sub-committee on gender equality and diversity and the creation of a new team at the heart of the department of film development and production that looks for way to improve male-female parity in line with the agreement on funding.

It is still difficult to see the results of these policies as their implementation is so recent. Ireland shows a proportion of female directors marginally inferior to the European average but we cannot yet see any precise trend as, from year to year, this proportion varies between 14.3% and 22.5%, given also that the Irish film production output is not high (less than twenty films produced per year). On the other hand we can see how female cinema in Ireland is young as, over the whole period of the study, not a single film from generations 4 or more directed by a woman was released in cinemas.


Over the last two years Poland has shown a significant increase in the presence of women in the national film industry, both in terms of the actual statistics and in the policies. Having been one of the countries “in cultural progression” it has, with its policies, become one of “stable progression”.

Poland is now ranked 13th in terms of the proportion of female directors while in the previous study it was ranked 22nd. In 2016 there was an important increase in this proportion which is now 31.8%. This is the largest increase between 2015 and 2016 of any country, but it is necessary to look at this increase in a longer-term context to ascertain whether it is circumstantial or indeed more permanent. Poland also shows an impressive trans-generational development as the proportion of female directors went from 14.7% in the old generations to 22.7% in the young generation. In 2016 nearly one in two generation 1 films released in cinemas was directed by a woman. Poland hadn’t implemented any policies until 2015 when a growing awareness of the issue prompted a reaction. Groups of militant women from the film industry and female directors mobilised themselves in order to encourage change. Two notable groups are the Polish Female Filmmakers Association created in 2014 which brings together young female directors and organises debates around the issue, and Women of Film, an informal group of female film directors (present mainly on Facebook) active since September 2017. The efforts of these two groups pushed the Polish Film Institute to impose parity objectives in the committees of experts in 2017.

Countries undergoing cultural change

There is a further category of countries where the global averages in terms of the proportion of films directed by women is less than the European average but where we can see a real trans-generational progression, despite the fact that there are no clear policies that favour female directors. These countries are: Italy, Portugal, Rumania, Russia and Turkey. This year we can also add to this category Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark and the UK.


Last year Bulgaria was classified among those countries with results that are too unstable to analyse. This year, with a standard deviation of 9.7% we can say that while the results remain inherently unstable they are beginning to stabilise from year to year. What is more, the developments in Bulgaria are worth mentioning (26.7% female directors in 2016, well above the average of 15.4% over the whole five year period).

We have noted that more and more women are directing their first film. Across the generations women represent only 15% of films released in cinemas, but for first films they are more than one in four. This figure has increased steadily from 2012 onwards. 2016 is nevertheless an interesting year in that it shows male cinema as much younger than female cinema in Bulgaria for this year.

This progression cannot be explained by the implementation of any policy in particular. There are no official proactive policies or measures concerned with information or awareness building. In the film schools very few women opt to direct. And according to the National Film Centre there are very few women making funding applications for their films. However we can see that there is in the country a powerful feminist militancy in the film industry, with an information and awareness building website created by a female film director, and that the cinema is in general young and is mobilising itself to modernise the national film industry.



As in Bulgaria, Croatia was last year in the category of countries with results that are too unstable to analyse. Even today there is a striking standard deviation of 12%, with strong fluctuations. However, seen in a longer-term context the proportion of female film directors has increased significantly (from an average of 4% in 1991 – 2008, to 19% for 2008 – 2016). Furthermore, Croatia has good results for 2016, with a third of films produced being directed by a woman. Like Bulgaria, in Croatia female cinema is younger, with a difference between the proportion of directors from the old generations and the new ones. But, in contrast to Bulgaria, in Croatia there were several second films directed by women.

Croatia hasn’t implemented any significant national policies concerning female film directors, apart from informative reports and articles aimed at raising awareness. However, the country has been involved with the issue at a European level (cooperating with EWA, presiding over the Eurimages Gender Equality Working Group between 2014 – 2017).


With the figures of the five years of the study Denmark has good averages: more than 20% of films are directed by a woman, and there is a minimal generational deviation between male and female film. For the time being trans-generational change is limited, and from one generation to the next there is not much development in the proportion of female film directors.

These results can be explained by the fact that until 2016 Denmark hadn’t taken this issue much into consideration. Since 2016 the Danish Film Institute has shown a serious understanding of the problem and has focused on gender equality among film directors. The DFI launched an initiative encouraging diversity and gender diversity across the board of the institute (communication, financing, festivals, committees etc.) to ensure real gender equality. In 2017 the DFI initiated a programme of policies to deal with the same issue. A dialogue forum took place in March 2017 to begin a constructive debate, and three large-scale measures were adopted in terms of awareness building, information (research), and, above all, the evaluation of projects applying for funding. The aim was to ensure concrete change, not “just talk”, and to begin making people across the profession aware of the question and working with the partners from film business.

The results of these measures cannot yet be seen in terms of quantitative statistics, but Denmark, which last year was shown to be a country somewhat resting on its laurels, is now a country with a real investment in change, and is one of the countries that shows profound and meaningful evolution.


Italy has, apart from Latvia, the lowest average in terms of female film directors of any European country. What is more, it is up to now generationally old, with female film directors who are established. But there is evidence of a positive trans-generational development meaning that while there are actually few established female film directors, more and more women are directing a first film. The proportion of women in the younger generations is now two times the proportion of female film directors in the old generations, a development that can be explained by a late understanding of the problem.

Until 2016 not a single particular policy had been implemented in Italy concerning this issue, discounting reports and the publication of statistics. These reports showed that while numerous women attend film schools, very few direct, seemingly self-censuring because of latent cultural influences.

However, for the update of this study we contacted the head of the film department at the Ministry for Heritage, Culture and Sport and learned that at the end of 2016 a new law on film production had been approved and had entailed a profound change in the funding system in the audiovisual sector. For the first time decrees contain measures in favour of productions directed by women (including on the web and on TV). So Italy has become a proactive country in terms of the problematic of gender equality.

We can therefore classify Italy as a country undergoing cultural change, especially given the positive trans-generational evolution. It is not yet a stable progression, as the results have to analysed over the longer term, but the country definitely shows proactive new measures in the system of film funding.


In Portugal the situation is relatively unchanged from last year, showing no great differences in results or in measures adopted.

It is striking that there are still no measures in place to support female film directors. On the other hand we can observe a growing awareness of the problem, and for this updated study we learned that the department of statistics at the Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual was investigating issues of gender equality that would be published in 2018.

In terms of statistics, Portugal is still inferior to the European average for the proportion of female film directors, although we have been able to observe a real trans-generational progression. In fact it is the country (apart from Luxembourg) where the deviation between male and female directors is the largest in this sense. There are few established female film directors, while there are an increasing number in the younger generations (except in 2016 when there was a slight decline).


In Romania the National Film Institute presents the lack of any policies as a question of principle. “Their value is in their talent, and they have a lot of it” writes Alina Salcudeanu, head of foreign affairs at the Romanian Film Centre concerning the situation of female film directors in her country. Equal opportunity is perceived as being ensured precisely by a lack of measures, so there are no quotas (seen as discriminatory), nor any studies undertaken into the subject.

Despite the absence of any measures implemented we can see an increase in the proportion of female film directors from one generation to the next. Romania is third in the ranking of countries where the deviation between the proportion of female film directors in generations 3 and more, and that of generations 1 and 2 is the most significant (behind Lithuania and Sweden). However in 2016 we observed a significant decline in the global proportion of female film directors in relation to previous years (decreasing from 23.3% in 2015 to 12.5% in 2016). Romania, which in the previous study had been ranked 10th, is now ranked 18th.

United Kingdom

Last year not a single policy had been implemented concerning this issue. However in 2017 there has been significant change, with the adoption and strengthening of Diversity Standards. The British Film Institute has created a series of measures aiming to improve diversity, but they are not only focused on gender diversity, as they take into account age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities. These policies deal with not only awareness building but also privilege women-lead projects in the allocation of funding.

Although it is not yet possible to analyse the influence of these measures on the proportions of female film directors, we do see improvements in the situation in the UK. Between 2012 – 2016 the proportion of female film directors grew from 9% to 15%, following a regular curve. If we consider trans-generational development we can see that it is active (the proportion of female film directors from generation 1 is however increasing very slowly), but that it is not significant. The proportion of female film directors in the old and young generations has not changed much.

In the light of these figures, of the slight improvements and of the recent implementation of policies, we can no longer consider the UK as a country that is lagging behind, but rather that it is showing characteristics of a country undergoing cultural change.


We haven’t seen any changes in statistics in Russia. Last year no policy had been implemented supporting female film directors, and the figures remain the same with stable development. Russia is ranked 21st this year (20th last year) concerning proportions of female film directors, which is below the European average. In parallel the deviation between proportions of female directors from the old generations and from the new generations has decreased. In fact, since 2012, the proportion of female directors from generation 1 has decreased (from 31% to 19%), while it has increased for generations 2 and more, with a large deviation between the two segments of proportions.


The country is ranked the same as last year concerning the general proportions of female film directors, with figures well below the European average, leaving the country only followed by Italy and Latvia. However, trans-generational change within female film in Turkey is positive. Between generations 3 and more, and generations 1 and 2, the proportion of female film directors doubles, meaning that female cinema is significantly younger than its male counterpart.

However, not a single policy – proactive or progressive – has been implemented, and the trans-generational changes can only be attributed to a stronger mobilisation on the part of young filmmakers. For example there is the website Film Mor which is exclusively focused on the issue organising a yearly festival of international films by women. There is also an important network of ONGs in Turkey working on behalf of women’s rights.

Countries with profund and slow change

Two countries show an atypical profile: they are “very good student” in terms of global averages for the proportion of their films directed by women across the generations, and yet they show an insignificant margin of change (or even negative sometimes) both throughout the period of the study and in terms of generational change. However these countries have developed concrete policies with which to confront the problem of gender inequality among film directors: Austria and the Netherlands.


As of last year Austria has implemented several policies, notably of parity and privileging (Gender Incentive). These strong, proactive policies are added to measures of encouragement (ProPro), awareness building (website “If she can see it, she can be it”) and information gathering. Even though the Austrian Film Institute has not defined a policy of hard quotas it nevertheless consistently records the proportion of women who have been attributed funding by the commissions. All of this means that Austria is one of the countries with policies most favourable and comprehensive towards female film directors.

If we observe the results and statistics of these policies we can see that Austria is ranked in the top three countries with a high proportion of female film directors (27.7%). However, in terms of the trans-generational development Austria is lower-ranked; between 2012 – 2016 female film directors were more numerous in the old generations than the young generations, meaning that the film industry is generationally renewing itself less quickly than in other countries. The proportion of female film directors among the women of the young generation decreases in 2016 compared to the four previous years because of the decline in first films directed by female directors.

Austria is also one of the countries practising long-term, slow-acting and profound policy changes, meaning that it would be advisable to wait and see the results of the proactive policies implement in 2017 before coming to conclusions.



For the time being we cannot consider the Netherlands a country where female filmmaking has experienced any sort of significant shift. The figures are globally good in comparison with European neighbours. 2016 is a particularly satisfying year in that the proportion of films directed by women has risen by more than 10 points in comparison with the previous year.

But these changes are not representative of any particular dynamism. Dutch cinema is relatively old and shows more or less the same proportion of female directors in the old generations as in the young ones, with a slight trans-generational increase (29% in the young generations, 25% in the medium and old generations).

However the Netherlands Film Fund has for several years engaged in a general policy of the promotion of diversity within the film industry, including a promoting of gender diversity. In 2016 the institute also created a special unit to monitor data collection and organise events and partnerships with associations specialising in the issue of diversity. In 2017 the NFF included a requirement that projects applying for funding should be evaluated on their contribution to diversity. The institute deliberately avoids hard quotas or objectives in terms of proportions of female directors supported: according to the NFF it is impossible to change an industry through regulation. Change must be effected at a deeper level, working with awareness building as an essential step not only to equality, but also to building a more diverse audience.

Both Austria and the Netherlands show a sincere concern for questions of gender equality in the film industry. Both countries are already in the category of the “very good students” of Europe, and have a similar philosophy in their desire to deal with problems at a profound, rather than a superficial level. This without a doubt slows down the process of change as societal transformations take longer to emerge than those brought about with legislation but the results can be very persuasive over the long term.

Countries in stagnation

Four countries from the “good students” category appear to be resting on their laurels: Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. These countries have statistics that rank them above the European average, but there is no change over the years or between the generations – indeed where there is change it is negative. Two of these countries (Hungary and Slovakia) have unstable results from year to year.


If in terms of the proportion of female film directors across the generations Finland ranks well, above the European average, it is an anomaly in terms of trans-generational change as it shows trends that are the opposite to those seen in other countries. In twenty-five countries the proportion of female directors from the young generations is higher than the proportion of female directors in the old generations, in Finland the opposite is true: 26.1% of the old generations and 17.6% with the young. The proportion among the directors of generations 1 and 2 even declines between 2102 – 2015 and 2016. Female cinema in Finland therefore barely renews itself, certainly less and less, a situation which puts it in stark contrast with other Nordic countries such as Sweden and Norway.

These results can be explained by the fact that no policies have been implemented concerning female directors (apart from data gathering, but only as a small part of the annual reports published by the film institute), and no policies are envisaged for the coming years.


Czech Republic

According to the Czech Film Centre the Czech Republic has generally good, above average, results concerning the proportion of female directors, especially in documentary filmmaking. But trans-generational development is very slow. The proportion of female directors of films from generation 1 is less than that of all generations taken together. The country is also the only in Europe (with Estonia) where female cinema is older than male cinema. Over the period 2012 – 2016 women have on average directed their 5th film, compared to their 4th from men. No policies have been implemented or are planned to change the situation.


This year Slovakia presents an interesting situation. In 2013 the country showed excellent results concerning the proportion of female directors across the generations, but has seen this number decline from year to year until in 2016 not a single film released in cinemas was directed by a woman. So while the country was ranked in the previous study as one of those on a positive trajectory in terms of cultural impact (7th, with the best proportions), we have now had to reconsider its position (12th now, only just above the European average). On the other hand we have seen a positive trans-generational development (a deviation of 7.6 points from directors of generations 3 and more to those of generations 1 and 2). We can therefore rank Slovakia as a country in stagnation. As with Finland and the Czech Republic, the statistics are positive and above the European average but the lack of any policy implementation hinders any real change, and actually seems to have resulted in a worsening of the situation.


Like Slovakia Hungary is a country that is anomalous in that not a single film released in cinemas in 2016 was directed by a woman, despite the fact that it was generally ranked among the “good” countries. It is ranked at 7th in the proportion of female directors across the generations. We tried to contact the Hungarian national film institute for clarification but were unsuccessful. However we can try to understand these data by the important deviations shown in the statistics for Hungary. After Luxembourg it is ranked 2nd for the highest variation in the proportions of female film directors, and as a result of these deviations it is difficult to define any real trans-generational development. But we noted that since 2012 the proportion of female directors of generations 1 and 2 has declined.

In parallel, looking at the website Magya Filmunio we were unable to identify any policy that supports female directors.

A country that is lagging behind

Finally there is one country definitely lagging behind others as its national average of proportion of films directed by women is less than the European average, and there is no real development of the figures either from year to year or between generations, and where no policies have been implemented or contemplated to improve the situation of women in film. Last year we found both Greece and the UK in this position. Given the growth in awareness and the policies implemented in the UK this last year, it can no longer be relegated to this category.


Like several countries from the south of Europe, Greece does not show good results in terms of the proportion of female directors (less than 15%). In 2016 we observed that of ten films released in cinemas, none had been directed by a woman. In the same way, there is no notable trans-generational change either. The proportion of women among films from the old generations and new generations is more or less the same.

This can be explained by the fact that there are no policies aimed at gender equality, neither proactive nor progressive. For the moment no such policies are contemplated for the coming years. However we can signal the presence of women in certain key posts. In 2016, for the first time, a woman, Electa Venaki, was nominated as head of the Greek Film Centre. And in 2017 Venia Vergou was nominated as president of the new Hellenic Film Commission (aiming at international co-production). Similarly, of the twenty-seven people working at the GFC, half are women. Last year we suggested in the study that the presence of these women in key posts could conceivably make a difference in the years to come. For the time being however, nothing has changed.