Why Oscar is a Male. A Data-Driven Analysis of Gender Representation in 87 Years of Academy Awards

Alice Corona
Published in
4 min readFeb 25, 2015


Did you know that on average only 16% of the nominees have been women since the awards began? This even includes nominees for the “Best Actress” categories. Or did you know that in the 2015 Oscars, to be awarded on March 1, 2015, seven categories had no female nominees? We explored the data behind the Gender Gap at the prestigious Academy Awards. In short, after a slightly better trend, gender equity at the Oscars has actually gotten worse in the most recent years and has never returned to the peak achieved in 1995.

See our findings below.

The 2015 Edition: Gender Gap is Actually Growing at the Oscars

To know if things are improving or getting worse, let’s have a look at the composition of nominees for this edition. Excluding acting awards, there are no female candidates in 7 categories. That grows to 12 categories if we count also the special awards (like the Awards of Merit or Award of Commendation).

Categories with no female candidate in 2015

Data from http://oscars.silk.co/page/Gender%20Gap%20at%20the%20Academy%20Awards

If we exclude acting and special awards, only six awards had a female winner at the 2015 Oscars.

Female Oscars’ nominations in 2015

Data from http://oscars.silk.co/page/Gender%20Gap%20at%20the%20Academy%20Awards

Huge Oscar Gender Gap is Not Shrinking

Over the 87 years of the Academy Awards, several things have remained constant. The Red Carpet. The golden statuette. And the absence of women nominees for the award. During the Academy Awards season pictures of actresses monopolize the front pages of websites, magazines, newspapers and TV shows. We discuss their stunning bodies, their designer clothes, their hairstyles, their make-up.

Unfortunately, very few women are actually nominated for an Oscar. The highest percentage of female nominees was in 1995, at 26%. And it immediately dropped to 16% the next year. In fact, 2003, 2005 and 2009 were all near-record low years for female Oscar nominations in the last two decades. And now 2015 added itself to this list, with only 17% of the nominees being women.

Percentage of male and female nominees through time

Data from http://oscars.silk.co/page/Gender%20Gap%20at%20the%20Academy%20Awards

Gender Equity in Oscar Winners Peaked in 1930

The highest percentage of female winners was in 1930. Now the trend is going backwards again. From 2010 through the 2013, fewer women won statuettes than the historical average. Last year there was a promising spike (23%), but this edition, with 14% female winners, is again one percentage point under the 87 year average. The 2012 Oscars recorded only 6% female winners, putting that edition in tie with 1936 and 1948 for the record-low percentage of female winners. Despite the more than half a century of women rights struggles. Over the 86 years, men have on average won 86% of the Awards while being nominated on average for 84% of the awards.

Percentage of female and male winners through time

Data from http://oscars.silk.co/page/Gender%20Gap%20at%20the%20Academy%20Awards

Categories Women Win…And Categories Where They Barely Exist

Women are represented poorly in nearly all categories of the Awards (except, of course, for gender specific categories like Best Actor or Best Actress). In fact, in some categories, a woman has never been nominated for an Oscar.

Percentage of Male and Female Oscar Nominees in each field 1929–2015

Data from http://oscars.silk.co/page/Gender%20Gap%20at%20the%20Academy%20Awards

Some examples:

  • Since the Animated Feature Film category has been instituted in 2001, only in 2013 a woman has finally managed to win an award: Brenda Chapman for Brave. Not too surprising, since male candidates in this field have been 93% of the total.
  • Among Cinematography nominees: 86 editions and a total of 637 candidates: yet no female candidate ever.
  • Women are scarce also among Directors/Assistant Directors and Special, Visual or Engineering Effects.
  • For Directing only one woman has won: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009. In this category, the Academy has only nominated four women out of 470 candidates: Lina Wertmuller (1976), Jane Campion (1993), Sofia Coppola (2003) and Bigelow.
  • For Special/Visual/Engineering Effects only six female candidates have been nominated out of 661 total nominees. In other words, men comprise 99% of candidates. Only three women have won this category since 1928: Vivian Greenham for The Guns of Navarone (1961), Suzanne Benson for Aliens (1986) and Janek Sirrs for The Matrix (1999).
    But the Ladies Do Rule at Costume Making…

Only in the field of Costume Design we see woman actually surpassing men. In this category they constitute 55% of the candidates and 58% of the winners. The second category where women score relatively well is in the award for Makeup. In that category, women make up a “whopping” 32% of the winners. Third place for female presence goes to Documentary awards, where woman have been 24% of the nominees and 23% of the winners.

One interactive chart to explore the Gender Gap, with data on more than 14,000 Oscar candidates

If you want to explore the Gender Gap data at the Academy Awards, you can use the following pie chart, available here on Silk in its fully interactive version. There you can customize the filters to adjust the distribution and explore patterns in specific years, fields, movies…or a combination of all of these parameters. Or click “Explore” to change the type of graph, and easily share or embed your results.

Gender Distribution at the Academy Awards

Data from http://oscars.silk.co/page/Gender%20Gap%20at%20the%20Academy%20Awards

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Alice Corona

Stories with data, from the data collection (or scrape) to the data visualization. Data storytelling instructor, data journalist