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Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm Have Achieved Gender Parity In Their Executive Ranks, Time For That to Trickle Down

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I’ve been talking a lot about Kathleen Kennedy lately, probably because I’m a female geek writing for a feminist geek site and she’s the President of Lucasfilm and responsible for freaking Star Wars. Mostly, we’ve been talking about the issue of female directors, and why there haven’t yet been any female directors on Star Wars films. However, even as we’ve been talking about this one area where Lucasfilm could be doing much better, there’s another area where Lucasfilm is getting gender right.

In the Women in Entertainment 2016 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Kathleen Kennedy and several of the other female executives at Lucasfilm talk about how their company ended up with an executive team that “is more than 50 percent female.” They also talk about the fact that, while it’s “coincidence” that the company has released two back-to-back Star Wars films with female protagonists, it’s certainly not a surprise.

According to creative executive, Rayne Roberts, “Because women are always in story meetings, [no one has] to go, ‘Hey, what would a woman think?’ The reason Rey is strong and technically capable and compassionate and driven is that the women who were in that room, including Kathy, reflect those qualities.”

So how did it get this way? Kennedy credits George Lucas for creating a company where inclusiveness is important, as is an environment that values a work-life balance. According to the THR piece, “It isn’t unusual for Lucasfilm employees to be near-lifers,” because the work conditions are so great. Jacqui Lopez, VP of Animation Production says, “It’s really hard to balance a career with kids, but if I have a parent-teacher conference or a school play, I don’t have to make an excuse about it. That’s really important to all of us.”

Once Kennedy became President of Lucasfilm in 2012, she made it a point to start placing women in key decision-making positions. One of her first big decisions was hiring Senior VP of Development Kiri Hart to oversee story across the Star Wars universe, followed by promoting Lynwen Brennan to Executive VP and General Manager. Now, most executives are female, which several see as an advantage. VP of Production, Janet Lewin, says “Our company being global and matrixed — there are so many projects we’re constantly juggling — is tailored to the strengths of female leaders, who are really good multitaskers.”

So, how did Lucasfilm achieve gender parity at the executive level? Kennedy says, “You have to cast a broader net when you’re interviewing and looking at possible prospects. In the creative community, there’s no excuse for not making a more equitable environment. It literally comes down to companies that just aren’t trying hard enough.”

That’s interesting, because that’s exactly what I’ve thought about the company’s seeming “progress” on finding a female director for a Star Wars film. That they just aren’t trying hard enough. Or, not only that, but that the very criteria they’re going by might be inherently flawed. It is so, so important to have women in decision-making, executive positions in Hollywood, and Lucasfilm is clearly getting that so right. Achieving that has clearly translated to female protagonists on-screen. Now, it’s time for that female power at the top of the company to trickle down into the below-the-line rank and file. No, not trickle. They need to get a waterfall going.

C’mon, Lucasfilm. I have faith in you.

(image via Lucasfilm)

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