Meryl Streep launched a new initiative for female screenwriters over the age of 40 earlier this month at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Run by New York Women in Film and Television, The Writers Lab will mentor eight screenwriters at a retreat in upstate New York. Gina Prince-Bythewood, writer and director of Beyond the Lights, Boyhood producer Caroline Kaplan, and Legally Blonde writer Kirsten Smith will all provide guidance to the screenwriters during the retreat as they develop and hone the selected writers’ scripts.
The new initiative follows a study released by the San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film last year that found that the number of female screenwriters in the United States fell from 17 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2014. The study also found that they were paid less than their male counterparts.
“I think you’d have to say there’s some inherent sexism in the industry,” the head of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, screenwriter-producer-director Jane Campion, told Reuters, criticizing the lack of female directors in the film industry.
Streep is a vocal supporter of gender equality in the performing arts industry and across the world. She gave Patricia Arquette a standing ovation for her Oscar acceptance speech calling for equal pay for women. Along with Sheryl Sandberg, Beyonce, and Rosamund Pike, she also recently signed an open letter, addressed to German chancellor Angela Merkel and Nkozazana Dlamini-Zuma, chair of the African Union, calling for action against female poverty across the globe.
Streep will star as Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette, a film examining the struggle for women’s voting rights in the United Kingdom. A trailer for the film was recently released, encouraging more women to vote in the UK’s upcoming general election, after 9 million women failed to vote in 2010’s election.