A study conducted by San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that 29% of protagonists in 2016's top 100 grossing films were women. In 2015, that figure was 22%. Thank that rise to roles like Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — the top-grossing film of 2016 — as well as Emily Blunt in The Girl On The Train and the amazing women of Hidden Figures.
That's great News, but the New York Times adds that there's a startling figure in the center's research. While the number of female protagonists rose, the number of speaking roles actually declined by 1%. In addition, the center looked at women minorities in film and found mixed results. The number of Asian female characters went up from 3% to 6%. Black female characters in movies jumped 1% from 13% to 14%. But the number of Latina characters dropped. In 2015, the stat showed 4%. In 2016, it dropped to 3%.
The Times also notes that when female directors or writers are behind a film, the numbers change dramatically. When men direct or write a film, the protagonist is female about 18% of the time. When women take on the same roles, that figure jumps to 57%.