How Is This Even Possible? Only 12% of Leading Roles Last Year Were for Women

Not cool.

If you went to the movies last year, chances are you were looking at a whole lot of dudes. According to a new report, there's been a big drop in the number of female leading roles on the big screen.

Every year, researchers at Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University comb through the box office's top movies to figure out how women are represented both in front of and behind the camera. This year, they analyzed 2,300 characters in the top 100 highest-grossing films, and the results were seriously depressing.

According to the New York Times, only 12 percent of leading roles in 2014's top movies were female, and that's down from 15 percent in 2013. The highest-grossing movie with a female protagonist was (no surprise here) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, starring Jennifer Lawrence

It also shouldn't come as a shocker that movies are overwhelmingly white, too. Three out of four of Hollywood's female characters were white, and there were fewer black and Latina characters than in 2013. Female characters also tended to be younger than male ones, notes The Hollywood Reporter

So how should this be fixed? Easy–just hire more female directors and screenwriters. The researchers found that movies with women behind the camera were more likely to star women as well.

"The chronic under-representation of girls and women reveals a kind of arrested development in the mainstream film industry," Martha Lauzen, Ph.D., executive director of the institute, said in a statement. "Women are not a niche audience and they are no more 'risky' as filmmakers than men. It is unfortunate that these beliefs continue to limit the industry's relevance in today's marketplace."

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Megan Friedman

Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.