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Oscar's Sweet 16: The Only Female Screenwriters to Ever Take Him Home

01/03/2016 14:34 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 10:12 GMT

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Surprised a woman didn't win an Oscar for best screenplay this year?

If you are, you've probably been living under a rock for the last century.

But all joking aside, when you realise only 16 female screenwriters in the past 88 years have managed to take Oscar home, it's hard to have a sense of humor about that dismal number.

It provides such glaring evidence that women aren't being given as many opportunities or as much recognition for their work.

This year, 17 individuals were nominated for an Oscar between the two screenplay races, but only 4 were women and there were no racial minorities represented at all.

Despite Chris Rock's no-holds-barred monologue at this past Sunday's Academy Award Ceremony blasting the American entertainment industry for its lack of diversity, I couldn't help but notice how little has changed over the years when the first two awards for best screenplays (original and adapted) went to four older, white men.

I'm not going to lie. Although I wasn't surprised by it, I was still disappointed to see that not one female screenwriter was able to bring Oscar home - once again.

But, in order to change these dismal numbers, we can't just complain about the lack of diversity. We need to continue to be part of the solution, which involves placing some of the focus on female success stories. Learning from these women is a vital step to overcoming the same hurdles within the entertainment industry.

After all, these 16 amazing female screenwriters managed to somehow find success and acknowledgment in an industry set up and operating historically to keep the female point of view out. Considering this, the dismal number of wins female screenwriters have is beyond impressive!

So it's in this spirit of celebrating our fellow women and learning from their success as female screenwriters that I'm excited to share with you Oscar's Sweet 16.

# 1      Frances Marion

1930, Best Writing, Original Story - The Big House

1932, Best Writing, Original Story - The Champ            

#2       Sarah Y. Mason (shared w. Victor Heerman)

1934, Best Writing, Adaptation - Little Women

#3       Claudine West (shared w. George Froeschel, James Hilton, Arthur Wimperis)

1943, Best Writing, Screenplay - Mrs. Miniver

#4       Muriel Box (shared w. husband, Sydney Box)     

1947,  Best Writing, Original Screenplay - The Seventh Veil

#5       Sonya Levien (shared w. William Ludwig)

1956, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Interrupted Melody

#6       Nancy Dowd (shared w. Waldo Salt and Robert C Jones)

1979, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly For the Screen - Coming Home

#7       Pamela Wallace (shared w. Earl W. Wallace and William Kelley)

1986, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly For the Screen - Witness

#8       Callie Khouri

1992, Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly For the Screen - Thelma and Louise

#9       Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

1993,  Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published - Howards End

1987, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium - A Room With A View

#10     Jane Campion

1994,  Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly For the Screen - The Piano

#11     Emma Thompson

1996, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published - Sense and Sensibility

#12 + #13     Philippa Boyens + Fran Walsh (Shared together and w. Peter Jackson)

2004, Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

#14     Sofia Coppola

2004, Best Writing, Original Screenplay - Lost in Translation

#15     Diana Ossana (shared with Larry McMurty)

2006, Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay - Brokeback Mountain

#16     Diablo Cody

2008,  Best Writing, Original Screenplay - Juno

After reviewing this list, it's easy to see that Hollywood does indeed have a diversity problem. [Check out the recent research results in USC's Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity to learn how bad it really is).

Hopefully, the recent attention and criticism this year's Academy Awards has received will finally cause the real change that has been promised by the likes of Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and is so desperately needed within the entertainment industry. After all, research has concluded that female-driven projects are commercially viable so there isn't any real business reason to not invest in women and their stories. 

But, in the meantime, I'm going to do my part to change the entertainment industry by learning as much as I can from Oscar's Sweet 16 and to continue to persistently knock on Hollywood's doors for opportunity. Because I believe if women finally refuse to be ignored, then we no longer will be.