Michael Moore becomes latest celeb to address Hollywood's diversity gap.

Hollywood has a white male filmmaker problem.

Just ask white male filmmaker Michael Moore.


Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images.

He played the numbers game to prove an important point about the people who make our movies.

And, as we all know, numbers are hard to argue with (because facts).

Across last year's top 100-performing films, just 1.9% were directed by women.

As The Hollywood Reporter noted, Moore threw out a sobering stat on Oct. 4, 2015, during a Q&A session at the New York Film Festival: A measly 1.9% of Hollywood's top-grossing movies were directed by women in 2014.

He got that (downright embarrassing) figure from a recent study by USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, which annually examines diversity in Hollywood.

Chart via USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

"This is absolutely wrong," Moore said, noting he's benefited from a broken system that favors those who look like him. "This is the most liberal of all industries, when you use the word 'industry' in this country, and for it to be so shamelessly white and male?"

“I'm not saying that just because I'm a liberal making a politically-correct statement; I'm saying it as a filmgoer and audience member. I'm missing out on her story. Their stories. That person. When you block out whole groups of film by that cinema, what are the great films that you and I are missing because their great voices can't be heard? I want to go to that movie. I want to hear that voice. I'm being denied that voice by a system that's sent out to give the reins to white men."

The good news is, Moore isn't alone in demanding that Hollywood evolve to better reflect the society it portrays.

The industry's diversity gaps are making waves right now, with several Hollywood heavyweights chiming in.

But not everyone's two cents have been well-received.

Viola Davis by Mark Davis/Getty Images. Emma Watson by Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images. Matt Damon by Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty Images.

After becoming the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama series last month, Viola Davis used the historic moment to point out the lack of opportunity women of color face in Hollywood. Emma Watson spoke out against sexism in the industry just last week, pointing to her own career to prove change is needed. (Of the 19 films she's acted in, only two have been directed by women.)

And Matt Damon threw in his two cents, too — although interrupting a successful black female director to explain what she gets wrong about diversity probably wasn't the best approach to the issue — and he's certainly caught a fair amount of the flak because of it.

With all of this chatter about Hollywood's white male problem, is anything getting better?

In short, yes — there are hopeful signs we're making progress on the diversity front.

That USC report I noted earlier? It points to "encouraging" signs that women are taking on (and finding success in) more influential roles in Hollywood — take, for instance, the slew of female-led flicks that have killed it at the box office this year.

The cast of "Mad Max: Fury Road," a film with a feminist storyline that featured women in prominent roles and dominated the box office earlier this year. Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.

And in May 2015, the ACLU called for an investigation into gender discrimination within the film industry, which may be looked into by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this month. Depending on how that investigation is handled, some serious shake-ups in the way Hollywood does business could be unfolding soon.

In the meantime, you can help push the industry forward.

Support projects by and starring women. Stay educated on the daunting realities that persist for women (as well as people of color and those who are LGBT) in the industry. And speak up when a loved one pulls a Matt Damon and says something about inclusion that just ... doesn't add up. Your voice — and the movie you choose to see in theaters this weekend — does make a difference.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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