8 Of The Most Pioneering, Badass Women In The Film Industry

From Meryl Streep to Octavia Spencer, we look at the inspirational women who are transforming the film industry, one Oscar-win and awards speech at a time.

Pioneering women in film | ELLE UK

The Academy Awards is a time for celebrating the most innovative, creative and experimental members of the film community – a night of jubilation, congratulation and prosperity.

However, over its 89 years, it has also been an opportunity to shed light on the world's most prevalent prejudices and injustices – be it Patricia Arquette who used her 'Best Actress' speech in 2015 to champion women's rights to Halle Berry's 2002 nod to other black actresses, and 'every nameless faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened'.

Unfortunately, the Academy Awards has lagged behind society somewhat in terms of progression, equality and diversity.

After all, since the first Academy Awards in 1929, only four women have been nominated for the 'Best Director' Award and only fourteen Oscar winners, in total, have been black.

In light of this, we spoke to Getty Images' Director of Visual Trends, Pam Grossman to find out her definitive list of inspiring women in Hollywood who have pioneered for change, diversity and equality in the film industry and helped to smash that ever present, but crumbling, glass ceiling.

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Hattie McDaniel

'Hattie was a woman of firsts during a time that was steeped in prejudice. 

'As the first African American to win an Oscar for her role in Gone with the Wind, Hattie was almost not able to accept her award due to segregation rules at the Oscars venue that year. She was also the first African American to sing on radio, and has been awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her achievements in both careers.

'Her legacy is hugely important this year especially; we've seen a record breaking six black actors receive Oscar nominations – and hopefully many wins.'

Jennifer Lawrence

'She's the Hollywood 'It Girl' who is completely unapologetic about being herself. Not afraid to curse, be self-deprecating or to buck conventions, she's irreverent and outspoken and champions that stars needn't take themselves too seriously.

'She's also the highest paid actress in the world and has used her platform to promote equality for women and challenge the gender pay gap in Hollywood.

'Jennifer has carefully selected roles that upturn passive female 'ideals,' instead choosing parts that showcase women as entrepreneurs, leaders, rebels, and action heroes.'

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Kathryn Bigelow

'As shocking as it may seem, Kathryn is the only woman to have ever won the Oscar for Best Director.  Not only did she win, but she is living proof that stereotypes are not true reflections of reality, as her films such as The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty offer confrontational yet thoughtful takes on real-life, violent subject matters – not romance or fantasy. 

'She's breaking the mould in many ways, but her singularity also highlights a staggering disparity regarding the number of large, commercial opportunities for women to be the ones who tell the story.'

Edith Head

'A legendary costume designer, Edith was one of the few women working behind the scenes in her heyday who was publicly praised and acclaimed for their work. She was awarded eight Oscars over the course of her career for her wardrobe wizardry on films including All About Eve, Sabrina, and The Sting

'A trailblazer in her own right, she was known for her iconic, rebellious style and lofty ambitions. At a time during the Thirties and Fourties where costume design was still male dominated, Head was named the industry's first female Head of Costume Design when Paramount appointed her to the position in the late 30s.'

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Octavia Spencer

'Octavia Spencer's character choices have shined the spotlight on a number of previously untold stories, including her Oscar nominated role as NASA computer programmer, Dorothy Vaughan, in Hidden Figures

'Her projects help to address diversity on a multitude of levels, both on and behind the camera.

'An activist for multicultural storytelling, Spencer is about to star in and produce a miniseries about legendary African American entrepreneur and philanthropist, Madam CJ Walker.'

Julie Delpy

'Julie is a loud and proud French feminist who has forged her own way in an industry that is still threatened by visionary women. 

'An accomplished director, writer and actor, Julie once told the Guardian, 'Hollywood hates me - but I don't care.

'She's been fearless about showing herself ageing on film in the Before trilogy (the 2nd and 3rd of which she co-wrote), and a vocal critic about the film industry's gender gaps. 

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Viola Davis

'At age 50, Viola was the first African American to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2015. 

'This year, she's been nominated for her third Academy Award, making her the most nominated actress of colour in the history of the Awards. 

'She's campaigned for a more intersectional view of feminism, been a constant voice in the call for diversity, and has dedicated part of her career to ensuring the elevation of underrepresented stories through her production company JuVee Productions which produces films, shows and web series with non-mainstream narratives.'

Meryl Streep

'Meryl Streep is a force of nature. In addition to being one of the most respected and accomplished actors of all time (she's just been nominated for her twentieth Academy Award), she is also a tireless humanitarian and advocate for equality who was recently awarded the Ally for Equality award by the Human Rights Campaign.'

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