Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Why are casting directors nearly always women?

Woman’s Hour tackles the topic, but what’s the reason?

Wed, Nov 6, 2013, 10:51


I like to watch a fair chunk of the credits after films conclude in the cinema or on TV, and anyone who knows me will know that I wait for the casting director credit and say “SEE?!” That’s because casting directors are nearly always women. Sure, there are exceptions, but it’s very much a female field. Why? Hard to know really, the reasons give are all very unscientific and anecdotal. From talking to casting directors both online and off, a lot of it seems to come down to vague differences in gender that you’re not really meant to point out for fear of being seen as politically incorrect.

Casting directors have said stuff to me like women aren’t as egotistical as men, therefore they’ll be looking at the talent, and not how it impacts on them or threatens them. So a good looking male actor won’t be construed as a threat (I don’t know how this translates to non-heterosexual male casting directors) and an attractive female actor won’t be viewed subconsciously as a potential sexual partner (I don’t know how this translates to non-heterosexual female casting directors). That seems a bit black and white, but maybe it’s true on some subconscious level, that we assess people in professional settings about how they relate to us on a “you’re hot!” level.

People also talk about women’s intuition, judge of character and insight as a pro when it comes to casting, but I don’t know if men are any better or worse at this – it seems to be a bit of generalisation.

Maybe because it’s already a female-dominated field, potential casting directors will be women too, because gendered professional fields tend to also perpetuate that common gender. If you’re a woman looking to get into film or TV, you might be drawn to an area where women are already excelling. Maybe because men hold most of the positions of power in screenwriting, directing, editing, cinematography, gaffers, showrunners, grips, sparks, and are most of the studio and channel heads, that men are more likely to continue to excel in those fields, and women go for a route in film that won’t be as bloody impossible to succeed in.

Woman’s Hour had an item on the conundrum, which was interesting, although I wish it went on a bit longer to really get into the issue.

Here’s an article from the Chicago Tribune way back in 1998 *gazes through the mists of time* on the issue.

The New York Times had a piece on casting director Marion Dougherty (pictured) on the back of the HBO doc ‘Casting By’.
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Here’s a female-heavy list of top casting directors from Backstage.com.

So, casting directors, what do you think?