Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens will not only be the first Star Wars live-action film released in a decade (after Episode III - Revenge of the Sith in 2005), but also the first installment in the franchise to feature a female protagonist, in youngster Rey (Daisy Ridley). Women are going to be better represented onscreen in not just The Force Awakens (also costarring Carrie Fisher, Gwendoline Christie, and Lupita Nyong'o), but also the 2016 Anthology film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which features Felicity Jones as one of its leads.
However, at the same time, it hasn't escaped fans' attention that of the announced upcoming Star Wars films and spinoffs/Anthology movies at this point, none of them include women as either writers and/or directors. Seeing as the plan is for Lucasfilm to release a new Star Wars movie every year for as long as fans want to see them, there's plenty of room for female filmmakers to head to a galaxy far, far away in the future - and now, steps are being taken to make sure that they do indeed get their chance to do that.
This info comes from an LA Times article detailing how, behind closed doors, more and more prominent figures in Hollywood are taking steps to address gender inequality in the industry - including, that the number of female writers and/or directors in Hollywood is much, much lower than film school statistics indicate it should be. Adriana Alberghetti, a partner at WME and agent who represents director Sarah Gavron (Suffragette) and screenwriter Linda Woolverton (Alice in Wonderland) among others, offered the following statement, regarding the matter.
"Behind closed doors, people at the studios are saying, 'we know we have a problem. How do we get more women behind the camera?"
Alberghetti, according to the LA Times article, has already gotten meetings for four female directors and three female screenwriters to work on future Star Wars movies. That being said, it is worth noting that fans are unlikely to see a Star Wars film written and/or directed by women any earlier than 2020, given that Lucasfilm has writer/director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII scheduled for 2017, writers/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller's Han Solo movie slated for 2018, and writer/director Colin Trevorrow's Star Wars: Episode IX up for 2019.
However, assuming the franchise is going strong as ever by that point, the third Star Wars Anthology film will arrive a year after Episode IX - and right now, the project (rumored to be a Boba Fett/bounty hunter adventure) has neither a writer nor director firmly attached. So that project is very much up for grabs, until further notice.
The Force Awakens co-writer/director J.J. Abrams also made the following comments recently on Good Morning America (h/t THR), explaining one of the hopes that he has for the film:
"Star Wars was always a boys thing and a movie that dads could take their sons to, and though that’s still very much the case, I was really hoping that this would be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well. I’m looking forward to kids seeing this movie and seeing themselves in it and seeing that they’re capable of doing things that they could never imagine possible."
Star Wars has of course always had more than plenty of female fans (even if many have long regarded it as a "boys thing," like Abrams said), but it is nonetheless good to see that the people working on the series are finally starting to acknowledge as much. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has likewise said that approximately half of the company's "executive team" are now women too (including the Star Wars story group), so the hope is that a similar ratio will also become applicable to the breakdown of writers/directors for this franchise too - and other Hollywood film properties at that - sooner than later.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.