08/05/2015 12:30 EDT | Updated 08/05/2016 01:12 EDT

USC study throws harsh light on widespread inequality in recent popular movies

NEW YORK — A new study finds that less than a third of speaking parts in the most popular films from 2007 to 2014 were female.

The University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released a study Wednesday that put Hollywood's on-screen gender and ethnic equality in sharp relief. The study evaluated the 700 top-grossing films between 2007 and 2014.

USC found little signs of improvement. In 2014's most popular movies, 21 per cent featured a female lead, about the same percentage as the 20 per cent found in 2007.

Behind the camera isn't better. Of the top 100 films in 2014, only two were directed by female filmmakers. In 2007, it was three.

In the same time span, only three films out of the 700 were directed by African-American filmmakers.

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press