APRIL 27: Dr. Katherine Pieper, Ph.D.

Katherine Pieper Headshot

Dr. Katherine Pieper received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her research interests include employment patterns in film and television, with a particular focus on diversity in key production roles. She has worked with Dr. Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti at the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism since 2012. In addition to research on diversity, Dr. Pieper has assisted with several content and effects studies related to frightening and prosocial media portrayals.

Dr. Pieper graduated with a B.A. in Communication from Michigan State University (2003). Dr. Pieper’s dissertation focused on the role of social support in a three-year maternal and child health intervention in Cambodia. Between 2007 and 2011, she worked in communication and resource development, including proposal writing, reporting, and design of monitoring and evaluation activities for a non-governmental organization based in Phnom Penh.


Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative produces cutting-edge, timely, and theory-driven empirical research on different entertainment-based minority groups. Roughly 20-30 undergraduate and graduate students are conducting research on gender and race to assess portrayals of males and females in popular media. Educators, advocates, and activists can access and use the research to create sustainable industry change on screen and behind-the-camera.

Examining 5,839 characters, a recent study of 129 top grossing G, PG, and PG-13 films theatrically released between 2006 and 2011 showed that less than 30% of all on screen speaking characters are girls or women. The ratio of males to females on the silver screen is 2.53 to 1. Other findings revealed that females are still more likely than males to be depicted in a stereotypical (i.e., caregivers, romantically involved, lacking employment) and hypersexualized (i.e., sexy attire, nudity, thinness) light. Further, females are far less likely to be shown in films as holding clout and powerful positions in political (e.g., Senators, Representatives), financial (e.g., CEO, CFO, COO, GM), or legal (Supreme Count Justices) arenas.

While on screen portrayals are skewed, the percentage of females working behind-the-scenes is even more abysmal. Across 1,100 top-grossing films between 2002 and 2012, only 4.4% of directors are female. This investigation also examined the total number of unique directors after removing individuals that helmed more than one film. In comparison to the 625 unique male directors, only 41 unique females emerged across the 11-year sample. This translates into a gender ratio of 15.24 males to every 1 female director!

Recent research reveals that the independent sphere is more female friendly. Commissioned by the Sundance Institute/Women in Film in Summer of 2012, Dr. Stacy Smith, the director of the Initiative,  and her research team assessed female involvement as content creators at the Sundance Film Festival between 2002 and 2012. Across 11 years, 16.9% of all directors, 20.6% of all writers, and 29.4% of all producers of U.S. narratives are females. These percentages are all substantially higher than those found in some of Smith’s earlier work on top grossing studio films or Academy Award Best Picture Nominated Films. The Sundance study also qualitatively explored barriers facing female directors and producers in the independent space, with gendered financial impediments, a male dominated environment, and work family conflict the three most frequently mentioned obstacles by the 51 content creators and industry thought leaders interviewed.

Given these and other similar statistics from the lab, recent research by Dr. Smith, Rene Weber & Marc Choueiti, has focused on the economic success at the box office of feature films with women on screen and behind-the-scenes as well as interviewing over 110 content creators (i.e., directors, writers, producers, executives, etc.) about the reasons for the under representation and hypersexualization of girls and women in popular movies. (Funding for Dr. Smith’s research has come from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Sundance Institute, and See Jane.)

Please see this article in Cartoon Brew: “Crashing the Boys Club: Women Speak Out About Gender Inequality in Animation.”

And Buzzfeed’s: “Inside the Persistent Boys Club of Animation.”

Boy Club by Monique Steele



24 thoughts on “APRIL 27: Dr. Katherine Pieper, Ph.D.

  1. Megan Simon says:

    Katherine Pieper gave an incredibly insightful talk on the state of women in Hollywood both behind and in front of the camera. I found it sort of heart breaking to discover how few women work in the industry compared to men, and even how women are treated in front of the camera. I personally recently found out I am likely disabled, so for me it was frightening to think of all the boundaries I have to face not only in trying to overcome my disabilities but also just being a woman trying to break in. I feel I have made a mistake at times being honest about illnesses. If women are discriminated because they might have kids then how does someone like me even stand a chance? It’s honestly made me consider changing my name to a masculine name to hopefully overcome some of the prejudice at least on paper. I also wonder how many women in the industry look like someone like me. It’s frightening to consider how few women of underrepresented racial groups get included in the industry. I feel so strongly some of my classmates are capable of becoming great directors like Sequoyah. I hope there’s a future for someone like me to have a chance to work hard and be considered as an equal. Sometimes I see things that other people do that I know I could never get away with. I would face a LOT of scrutiny of I tried. I know this because at times in the past when I experienced success sometimes it makes people really mad in a way they don’t if other people get praised or pointed out. I find people treat me like a liar or that things were unfair for me to succeed such as unfair bias or whatever. Sometimes I feel like people expect me to fail. It can be discouraging sometimes especially when I wonder if I were a man would I be treated the same? Would even my disabilities be looked at the same way? I feel lucky to be part of a school that gave me an opportunity and there’s so many amazing supportive people here like Lisa who want to talk about stuff like this. I am grateful I have a job that lets me flourish. I guess I just have to try and be the best and never make a mistake or let my disabilities be noticeable because there really isn’t any other option.


    • Sequoyah Madison says:

      Hi Megan! Thank you for your comment, and I think something that is important to remember is that everyone (including men) even though it may not be immediately apparent have struggles and obstacles. It sounds like you have definitely had more than your fair share of hardship, but what is going to separate you from the masses of people striving for the same dream is that you don’t quit or give up. When it feels daunting we should remind ourselves that as long as we keep pursuing a career in the animation industry we will get there eventually! Hope that helps, don’t be so hard on yourself! 😀


      • David says:

        I was referring to the comment made about passing legislation that would force the entertainment industry to edit the unrealistic ways in which characters are represented in animation.


    • Erik Dumas says:

      Hey, Megan. Thanks for sharing something so personal with us all. I think something important to remember is that you don’t have to go through all of this alone. Every one of us has doubts and insecurities and even though we may not all share the same problems or hardships, I think we can all empathize with each other. Animation is a team sport, and every one of your classmates is on your team and we will support you in all of your creative endeavors. If we want to change the industry, the first thing we need to do is support each other.


    • ZOEY says:

      Hi Megan, everyone no matter what genders how successful they are will somehow sometimes make mistakes. And they learned from their different mistakes to become stronger. And i don’t think being honest and confessing yourself is a bad thing since its purity and courage can not only bring more confident to yourself but also inspire yourself and others!


  2. Erik Dumas says:

    This seminar was incredibly informative, and unfortunately a little depressing. Seeing the statistics so clearly displayed makes me feel a tad helpless when it comes to actually making changes for the better within the animation industry. I wish we had had more time in this seminar so we could have perhaps talked more about what we can personally do to help change things in the industry. If anyone would like to discuss that aspect of it, feel free to do that here or with me in person!


  3. Yu Yu says:

    I read an article online before about the how many dialogues between man and women in Disney animation film. Surprisingly even in the princess series movie, the male characters still have much more lines than the female, even the main character is female. I think I can understand why the female performances are so stereotype in the early animation movies. Because there are only male animators in the industry, and they can only imagine how woman act. If you ask a man to act and dress like a woman, he might choice high heels, tight dress, and red lipsticks. Yet not every woman dress and act like that. But now, this problem becomes less, very slowly. If the society and family education can stop telling girls to marry a good guy and be a princess, I think one day there will be even male and female in the industry.


  4. Jane G. Kim says:

    Dr. Pieper delivered a great lecture. As I am writing 2 papers for this semester, I’ve learned to really appreciate good statistics, and that was about 95% of her presentation. It really is a prolonged issue in Hollywood films, that women are often treated as secondary elements. It is great that this problem is being recognized and that there are efforts to change it, but I think at the same time, we should also try to drive attention towards non-mainstream films. There are many films outside of Hollywood that do not represent women as small, unnecessary characters. Though I know that Hollywood needs to change since it is such a large entity that distributes movies to the most people. If the representation of women in both the industry and films changes, that can become a catalyst for a lot more positive change in society as well.


  5. David Nessl says:

    The one thing I disagree with about last week’s seminar was the push to adopt new laws that could force businesses in entertainment to edit and change their content based on an opinion. I’m not standing behind films that contain all male characters, or corporations like Disney who have objectified women in their animation. I don’t like that films are dominated by men and I’d like to see more diversity, but apart from what I agree or disagree with I appreciate that we live in a country where you and I have the right to make these decisions on our own. We have the right to watch a film, or decide not to watch it if we think it’s wrong. That right is something that’s more important to me than my opinions and personal ideals. We have a certain amount of freedom in the US and sometimes the price for that freedom is that we have to tolerate things that we don’t like or agree with. If we start creating regulations that edit free expression, there’s a possibility that one day we’ll find regulations in places we never anticipated. Again, I agree that the entertainment industry can be sexist, racist and very bias, but before we start legally prohibiting people from exercising their right to freely express what they want to show, we need to ask ourselves how important it is to have this right over what’s considered popular or correct.


    • Sequoyah Madison says:

      Hi David! Just quick clarification, because I’m not sure which comment you are referring to from the seminar in your post above. Are you referring to the lawsuit that is investigating the possible unlawful hiring practices of the entertainment industry (which may discriminate against hiring females)? What are you referring to when you say the push for adopting new laws?


      • David Nessl says:

        I was referring to the comment about creating legislation that would force the entertainment industry to edit the unrealistic ways that characters are represented in animation. It had nothing to do with unlawful hiring practices.


    • Erik Dumas says:

      I think you’ve misunderstood what was talked about at the seminar. The ACLU is pushing for an investigation into the hiring practices in Hollywood because of the enormous gender gap within the industry. It has nothing to do with attempting to censor or alter the kinds of films that are being made.

      The purpose of the investigation (and any subsequent legal action) is to make sure that women are being given an equal opportunity for creative expression. The right to free expression is a fundamental thing in maintaining freedom, which is why it’s so important that everyone is given that right. When women make up only a tiny fraction of the film industry despite making up half the audience, it becomes pretty clear that something (or many somethings) within the industry is keeping women from utilizing their right to free expression.

      This legal action is not about censoring men in the film industry, it’s about removing the systemic censorship that the film industry has imposed, wittingly or unwittingly, on female filmmakers.

      Here is an article on exactly what the ACLU is trying to do.


      • David says:

        I didn’t misunderstand what was talked about at the seminar Erik. I understand everything being discussed about unlawful hiring practices, but I’m referring to the first half of the seminar about the ways animated characters and designed in children’s films.


  6. Sequoyah Madison says:

    Something that has stuck in my head, is Katherine’s comment that even woman demean and stereotype other women, which is obviously true, but it made me wonder if there is a reason for this, other than the subconscious element that woman have been brainwashed from birth through film, animation and television. I would hope that woman going into the animation industry, and all minorities for that matter, want to change the stereotypes that have become popularized, otherwise doesn’t the fight against obvious industry bias in order to secure an industry position, only to regurgitate the existing stereotypes, seem like an awful lot of effort and stress? I wonder to what extent woman in creative positions of the animation industry try to assimilate into a male driven environment in order to keep their jobs. Could this mean the few woman and races that are present in creative meetings are there to justify and give validity to Caucasian males ideas of them?

    I went to a children’s book conference a few years back and something Shannon Hale said is relevant to the topic of last week’s seminar in terms of how we raise children to think of gender. Paraphrasing she said little boys are told in school and with parents that the definition of being a boy is simply anything that means not being a girl. But what is it to be a girl? Gender definitions have altered so drastically in the past few decades, but we are not seeing it in animation and media. Perhaps woman are kept thin, quiet , so it is easy to develop dimensional male characters without the male and female character traits overlapping. Unfortunately, a surprisingly large percentage of parents that I have heard/know of find it uncomfortable to confront and talk to their children about complicated controversial topics.

    Katherine’s presentation was extremely interesting, but left me feeling rather hopeless. It is encouraging however that one movie The Book of Life can sway the statistics and I personally hope one animation will start a catalyst of change and set a higher standard of other animations. It seems apparent to me that the success of Zootopia should send a giant flashing message to Disney creatives that story lines about timely controversial topics are much needed and desired!

    Parting words for Spring 2016 seminar: Come hell or high water, women will eventually occupy 50% of the animation industry positions.

    Thank you Lisa for an amazing seminar semester!


  7. Bryan Lee says:

    It was a pleasure to hear from Dr. Katherine Pieper and to hear the history of discriminatory nature of the whole entertainment industry as well as ongoing oppression. It was truly unfortunate to hear the statistics of the happenings within the industry and quite overwhelming to be honest. But now having heard these things and becoming more conscious of the hardships many people face within the industry it motivates me to utilize whatever opportunities or platform that I may have in the future to push for equality. Hopefully as I continue to grow as an artist and as a person I will be able to continue to develop more thoughts on this issue as well as ways in which to combat oppression where its at.


  8. Joe Stucky says:

    I hope for an equal percentage!

    Facts and figures do help to educate. Checks and balances are needed. One must also consider everyones specific gender identities. Again awareness is part of the process needed to move forward. This is a tough business, but an important one. We must all work together to make it better. I am confident that progress is attainable with well informed direction.


  9. ZOEY says:

    This seminar was really informative and evoke the issue about gender bias in the film industry. From all the collected data, there still need a lot effort and time to make changes under this condition. And I agreed with Joe’s idea that all people and genders must work together to strive for equivalent. Only with enough supportive consciousness and education, it will be possible to create more friendly and balanced environment for everyone. It’s a society in whole unity so everyone really have to think about that and open more discussions about gender topic.


  10. HyeonJeong Cho says:

    Thank you Dr. Katherine for sharing very informative statistics. It was good to see the situation with actual numbers but also very depressing.

    Maybe it’s not really relevant to the topic of seminar but I thought a lot of things in my mind during the seminar.. As a minority(woman, Asian, and ESL foreigner), I experienced, and am experiencing many bias and discrimination almost daily basis. (maybe it’s too much to say ‘daily’ but, quite a lot. Most of them are very subtle so hard to tell though..) I believe society, and industries become more healthier and fun when they have a diversity. I hope everyone being treated equal regardless gender, nationality, and any sort of backgrounds; and believe it’ll happen soon if you keep bringing the issue like this.

    I wish I could write something clear and organised way, but I don’t think I can for now. But I really appreciate this seminar for giving me food for thought.


  11. Sagar Ramesh says:

    Dr. Katherine Pieper’s presentation last week was a very insightful (and saddening) conclusion to the semester. The numbers that she showed in relation to the number of women and minorities working in the industry were appalling; I remember picturing larger numbers in my head before she put up each slide, and being shocked every time she talked about how fewer and fewer underrepresented groups were breaking into the higher tiers of the industry.

    Nevertheless, it’s comforting to know that these issues are being brought to the forefront by notable individuals in fields of entertainment, tech, and more. Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” sparked discussions about racial diversity, double standards, and general inequality in entertainment, Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” series encourages conversation among men and women in order to promote feminism, and presentations like the one given by Dr. Pieper last week push us as students to fight for a more egalitarian society. Fortunately, those of us who are students today will eventually be the ones in those notable, higher-up positions, and I’m confident that the white-male-heavy state of the industry will balance out as we continue to keep equality in the conversation.

    Thank you for a phenomenal semester, Lisa. I really appreciated the advice, presentations, and bits of wisdom that our guests imparted to us, and I hope to attend the public seminar events next semester!


  12. Yingzong Xin says:

    This seminar is so informative, it’s good to see the actual numbers about gender in film industry , also a sad fact for women. I pictured a larger numbers in my head before I this presentation . But I can not blame anyone , as a female animator , I believes that women has lots capacity to gets into this industry more has we are doing it now . Even though the number today is not equal but the tendency is getting optimistic for women .


  13. Ruchia Masuko says:

    Dr. Katherine Pieper’s presentation was about the topic which is very important for all of us, animators.
    Especially for female animators, we all have the concerns about the equalities for man and woman.
    In Japan, it is said that we have sex and age discrimination more than western countries.
    It is said that the ratio of man and woman of numbers of comic artists in Japan are about same.
    Usually female comic artists create comic only for girls, but recent years boys comics made by female actually started to adopted in magazines and got very popular.
    But the thing is that the female artists hides that they are female, and use man’s name.
    For example, comic artist such as Hiromu Arakawa, Katsura Hoshino, and Fumiya Sato, They all pretended they are man but people later actually found out they are female artist.

    Many female artists pretend they are man, and the reason I think they do is because the image for the comic.
    People judges and see the comics differently if the creator is female. Many female artists want people to see and read their work without prejudice.
    I think artist pretending the sex is something could be controversy. Pretending the sex wouldn’t encourage the artists who’s are also same sex.
    It is good that we man and woman have same amount of opportunity to present works,
    but we still have strong prejudice for each gender, and that is what we have to learn to change.


  14. Shang Song says:

    Surprising data. I found that gender discrimination has been in the film and animation industry. All people are concerned about the “racial discrimination”, but few people care about the “sex discrimination”, which is in a deliberately ignored the fact that. Also, Hollywood often stereotype of women, the potential implication is to serve the male audience, which is a serious gender discrimination.

    Similarly, in China and India, the film industry is also a “man ruled the kingdom”, I think the film industry, the situation of Chinese women practitioners, than the United States is still poor, which requires attention.

    About this semester’s seminar:

    The most surprising: Chard Sellers and night of zootopia.

    The most practical :BUCK and Tip of application a job.

    The most shocking: Dr. Katherine and gender discrimination in film and television industry.

    The most enlightening: Biermann and AR technology.

    The most regret: PES is missed!

    And,thank you Lisa for an amazing seminar this semester.


  15. Min Shi says:

    Data itself is interesting, it can tell the truth that we ignored.
    I recalled my experiences when I was working for live action. Since I was the only two woman in the whole crew, to some extent, some of our work were not really been respected, and at times, responsibility is in a grey zone. Hope Dr. Katherine Pieper’s work can continued and attract more people’s attention!


  16. Amir Arzanian says:

    Katherine’s presentation was interesting and informative. I always knew there is discrimination in Hollywood system but I had no idea that it was that much. The data that Katherine provided was shocking. I believe everyone with the eligibility should be qualified for work without regarding ethnicity, gender and religion. Actually gender is social based definition for sex. As sex based on biological criteria for male and female, gender is based pre-considerate social values that dictates social role to male or female. These roles defined by society are not based on abilities but the historic and rigid values. In my consideration women are as able as man in animation and other arts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: