By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Women enjoyed a banner year in Hollywood movies and on television over the past year, notching up record highs in lead roles and gaining ground in influential jobs behind the scenes such as directors and writers, according to two studies published on Wednesday.
Box office hits like "Black Panther" and "Crazy Rich Asians" also shattered barriers for black and Asian characters, reflecting the drive for wider changes in the entertainment industry that were fueled by the 2017 sexual misconduct scandal in Hollywood and the #OscarsSoWhite backlash four years ago.
Thirty-nine of the top 100 films of 2018 featured a woman in a leading or co-leading role, up from 33 in 2017 and just 20 in 2007, according to a study by the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
There was also a 12-year high in the percentage of black and Asian speaking male and female characters, while women featured more frequently in action and adventure movies.
"In 2018 we saw companies taking steps to ensure that certain groups were included in some of their most notable movies," Stacy L. Smith, one of the authors of the Annenberg study.
On television, female characters made up a record 45% of speaking roles across comedies, dramas and reality shows on broadcast, cable and streaming services, compared to 40% in the 2017-2018 TV season, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego University found.
Behind the scenes on television, women accounted for a record 31% of all creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and directors of photography.
Both studies said that despite progress, there was still much to be done.
While women comprised a historic high of 26% of directors in the 2018-19 television season just ended, men still outnumber women 3 to 1 in this role, the San Diego study found.
Hollywood remains far below the 50/50 male-female parity that advocates are pushing for among on-screen talent, behind-the-scenes workers and studio executives. (Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by David Gregorio)
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