Greta Gerwig makes movies for women and about women, including 2017's "Ladybird" and 2019's adaptation of "Little Women." Both films received critical acclaim and multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
But Gerwig's fans were furious this week when she didn't get a Best Director nod for "Little Women," despite the film getting six nominations including Best Adapted Screenplay. It was a move that many saw as a snub. No women were nominated in the category.
In spite of the outrage on her behalf, Gerwig takes a more positive view of the industry, hanging on to the belief that things are generally moving in the right direction for women in Hollywood. "There have been great strides, and we've got to keep going: keep writing, keep making, keep doing," she told the New York Times on Monday following the Academy Awards nominations announcement.
For Gerwig, the hardest part of being a woman in a male-dominated industry is convincing others that stories about women are worth producing. "Women's stories are commercial," she tells CNBC Make It. "They are not niche. They can they can reach a large audience. Lots of people can go see them."
The success of movies such as "Wonder Woman" and "Hustlers" have helped pave the way, but women still have to go through the "process of convincing people that financing movies about women is not a bad investment," says Gerwig. "It's a really good investment."
Proving that women's stories are commercial is a two-fold problem, she says. It's not just about getting more women in the director's chair, but showing "the subject — stories of women and girls — as being something that's financially viable" as well.
The more those stories are told and shared, the more space is created for other women to follow.
"I believe that writing about something makes it important," Gerwig wrote in a recent essay in Vanity Fair, quoting a key line from her "Little Women" script.
In today's culture, "we very much have a hierarchy of stories," she continued. "I think that the top of the hierarchy is male violence — man on man, man on woman, etc. I think if you look at the books and films and stories that we consider to be 'important,' that is a common theme, either explicitly or implicitly."
Although there's no simple solution to the gender disparity, Gerwig offers a suggestion: Don't just ask female directors why the industry is so difficult for them — ask male directors as well. "I think it's about asking the question of everyone, not just when women come on to talk about things," she tells Make It.
"Don't just ask it of women, because some of it is a bit like, 'This is this is really hard for you. Why is that?' I don't know, man. You made it hard," she says.
Gerwig also acknowledges the importance of the public pushing studios to hire more women in directing and producing roles. "Right now there's a lot of desire to hire female directors because of the attention that's been placed on the lack of women directors by organizations like Time's Up," she says. "Until it's 50/50, I think putting pressure on studios to hire women and producers to get behind female directed and written films is really important."
Ultimately, Gerwig says the goal is to be viewed as an equal to her male counterparts. "I think it's Gloria Steinem who said: 'You know you're in power when you're the noun, not the adjective.' You're not a woman director, you're a director."
Until then, Gerwig plans to keep telling stories about women. As she told the New York Times, "in terms of it all moving in the right direction, that's all we can do: continue to make the work, make the work, make the work."
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.