(CBS Local)– Dr. Stacy Smith has been working to create change in the entertainment industry for a long time.

Dr. Smith has been a professor at USC since 2003 and is the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which is a think tank that studies diversity and representation in Hollywood. After years of seeing very little change, Dr. Smith is encouraged by what she’s witnessed in 2019.

“This year in particular, there have been so many changes. The change that we’re most thrilled about is the percentage of female directors in feature films,” said Dr. Smith in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “This year we are projecting between 12-14% and typically 4% of directors in top 100 films are women. This really illuminates a shift and not a blip. The numbers for 2020 are equally strong and the trend will hold. It’s a lot of satisfaction to see that people are starting to give access and opportunity to individuals that hold talent and it’s not solely based on how they look, but based on what they can do.”

One of the biggest impacts on Hollywood over the last few years has been the #MeToo Movement and Dr. Smith believes this has dramatically changed access and opportunity for women, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.

“We know from a lot of research that one of the key elements is changing perceptions of leadership,” said Dr. Smith. “Because the prototype for leadership is very masculine in nature, women aren’t being considered in leadership positions. When they are and there’s a misstep, they are often punished more severely. One of the things that’s so important is how do we help people understand that storytelling is one of the fastest ways to shift perception of how we see woman and individuals from all backgrounds. Reacting in the moment is difficult because theory informs our long term strategy, but you also have to give something to people in the short term.”

There have been many women who have risen up to create change in the last few years and someone Dr. Smith spent time with recently and loves talking about is actor and director Elizabeth Banks.

“She’s a multi-hyphenate. She is somebody like the other women we’ve talked about in Ava Duvernay or Reese [Witherspoon] who is really taking control of the path forward for her production company,” said Dr. Smith. “Any time someone acts, directs, writes, produces and is a champion for talent, they’re blazing a trail that I really think is extraordinary. With Elizabeth in particular, she also has the comedy focus, which resonates on so many levels. I think of her as a smart business person who understands how to think about storytelling across different platforms and inclusion broadly.”

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