50 years of Women in Film (WIF)

By Sophia Costanzo

For the last fifty years, Women in Film (WIF) has left an indelible mark on the state of the industry and taken its rightful place as a beacon of change in Hollywood.

This year, WIF celebrates 50 years of helping advance the careers of women working in the screen industries both in front of and behind the camera with the goal of achieving gender parity and transforming the industry’s culture. Founded in 1973 by Tichi Wilkerson, a dynamic force for good and a former publisher and editor of The Hollywood Reporter, WIF emerged as a response to the industry’s desperate need for a space for women. What started as a local initiative in Los Angeles has evolved into a global force that advocates for and advances the careers of women across all facets of the screen industries and across all levels of experience.

In 1977, WIF began the Crystal Awards, an exclusive event that honored influential women like Lucille Ball, screenwriter Eleanor Perry, actress/director Nancy Malone, and attorney Norma Zarky, a prominent Los Angeles lawyer who fought for civil rights. This event has now transformed into the WIF Honors, which recognizes the achievements of remarkable women. This year’s honorees include Yara Shahidi as the Max Mara Face of the Future, America Ferrera as the recipient of the Jane Fonda Humanitarian Award, and Crystal Awards for Advocacy presented to Eva Longoria and Linda Yvette Chavez, along with Celine Song and Greta Lee. Beyond award ceremonies such as these, WIF’s impact extends to programs and advocacy work that has helped impact the careers of women in the screen industries at a global level. In 1985, WIF introduced the Film Finishing Fund, which provides essential support for filmmakers to complete their projects. Recipients have gone on to win Academy, Emmy, Sundance, Berlinale, and Peabody Awards, as well as distribution and other recognition. WIF responds to the needs of its time. As a response to the #MeToo Movement, in 2017, Women in Film created the WIF Help Line, which offers resources and support to anyone who has experienced harassment, abuse, or discrimination while working in the entertainment industry. This program provides referrals to pro bono legal services, low-fee therapy, and free support groups.

Now in its fourth year, the #VoteForWomen film ballot helps to recognize the abundance of women whose work behind the camera has brought films and shows to our screens. This ballot aims to illuminate a wider range of women and nonbinary individuals in the film industry, urging members of awards-granting bodies, guilds, and other organizations to bear them in mind as they make their voting decisions each season.Other advocacy programs include Hire Her Back, an initiative launched after the COVID-19 pandemic to help entertainment employers achieve gender and racial equality as they moved towards returning to production, and Pathmakers, which highlights the career journeys of Black women leading the way in Hollywood – just to name a few. Programs like WIF Fellowships and WIF | The Black List Episodic Lab help emerging filmmakers find support in their craft, professional development, and networking toward advancing their careers.Beyond Hollywood, WIF’s influence spans globally with chapters worldwide. In addition to the wide variety of programs that WIF offers, members benefit from networking opportunities, panels, and screenings. As we reflect on the last 50 years of WIF, it’s clear that the organization has made great strides, but there’s still work to be done to truly achieve gender equity and transform the culture of the industry to be more inclusive. WIF participates in research alongside the ACLU and programs like the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Through their research this past year, WIF has found that industry statistics from 2022 reveal that women accounted for only 22% of key roles in the top 100 grossing films. The battle for equality in the film industry is ongoing, and organizations like WIF play a crucial role in shaping a future where women’s voices are heard and celebrated. The work WIF does ensures that the next 50 years will see more positive change for women in the industry. Congratulations to Women in Film for the last 50 years, and cheers to 50 more.