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Cautiously Optimistic

Thirty Percent of Prime-Time TV Writers Are Female; Only Twenty Percent More to Go, People

It’s no secret that the vast majority of the higher-up behind-the-scenes roles in the television industry are held by men. But as this year’s edition of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film‘s annual survey of prime-time TV’s gender breakdown shows, the gap isn’t nearly as wide as it used to be.

Taking a look at the 2011-12 season, the study found that 26 percent of the seven job titles they looked at—creators, executive producers, producers, writers, directors, editors and cinematographers—were held by women, a one percent rise from last season and five percentage points up from 1997-98. Not a heck of a lot, but hey, we’ll take it.

The really impressive part comes when you take a look at individual jobs, though. The female creator count, now at 26 percent, jumped eight percent from last year, and the female executive producer count (25 percent) jumped three percent. The biggest shift took place in the writers’ rooms: Last season, thirty percent of writers working on prime-time dramas, sitcoms and reality shows were female, double the previous year’s count. I can’t be sure, but I assume Tina Fey must’ve done something to make that happen.

It’s not all progress, progress, progress, though: The number of women working as directors stayed flat, and the number of female editors actually dropped seven percentage points. Then there’s the fact that the prime-time female presence is clustered around a small number of shows: 90 percent of the shows included in the study don’t employ a single female director, and 68 percent don’t have any female writers. Still, with the number of high-profile showrunners on the rise—Fey, Lena Dunham, Shonda Rhimes—things should continue getting better, not worse, in the years to come.

(via: The Wrap)

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  • Anonymous

    Now, the number will never be exactly 50%.

    At what point, do you think, will people feel content that things are near equal or fair?

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I’m curious—why do you think so? I see no reason the numbers couldn’t even out eventually, especially given the fact that the ratio being 50/50 doesn’t mean all the gender equality problems in the industry will have been magically solved.

  • Anonymous

    When some years, there are slightly more men, and some years there are slightly more women.

  • Anonymous

    I ment like 50.0000000000%

    the odds of the field having so many people employed in it hitting exactly 50.0% would be impressive.

    There would always be a sliver for someone with an agenda (good or bad) to point to if they wanted to.

  • Anonymous

    That’s an awesome common sense answer. Like it! Let’s see if we can pull it off. :)

  • Rebecca Pahle

    True. It could be 52% (w/ more males) one year and 52% (w/ more females) the next, then repeat ad nauseum, and it wouldn’t really mean anything. They do the study every year, so I look forward to seeing how the trends continue to change over time.

    Plus there are so many other factors—how the female writers are “clumped” at various shows, how much they’re paid compared to the guys, if they tend to be stuck in the “staff writer” position instead of advancing to higher-authority positions… there’s tons more to take into consideration than just the numbers. But I don’t know, I still found it interesting.

  • Anonymous

    I agree it’s interesting to look at.

    Ideally in the end I hope that people are getting the opportunities to try for the positions they want and the ‘best’ people for the job get them. Although best is completely subjective.

    The numbers fall anywhere they do and don’t have to conform to some outsider ideal.

  • MTJ

    Tina Fey has very little to do with it. Community, The Office, and Parks & Rec all have more female writers on staff than 30 Rock does.

  • Charlie

    I think we should be more concerned about the content being created than the gender of the people behind the scenes. I mean, do we really want to celebrate the fact that a show’s crew was 50+% female when the show they’ve made is junk like Toddlers and Tiaras? (An extreme example, I know, but you catch my drift).

  • Rebecca Pahle

    The numbers are relevant though, only if because they can be indicative of a problem in the industry. 89% of prime time TV directors are guys. Does that mean that men are far and away better directors than women? I don’t think so.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Interestingly enough, there are actually more men (percentage-wise) behind the scenes in reality TV than in dramas and sitcoms, which I thought was interesting. But yes, I see your point. :)

  • Lance Bravestar

    Those shows also have more female main characters than 30 Rock, unless you count Cerie and Sue.

  • Ashe

    I think we can be concerned about both. Neither seem more important than the other, in my opinion.

    Content is fantastic, but if we’re constantly leaving certain kinds of people out, I start wondering what perspectives or ideas I could be missing.

    Likewise, diversity is essential, but it alone doesn’t fix problems with lackluster products. So, we need to keep a firm eye on both, because they support each other.

  • Travis Kyle Fischer

    Why would you assume that interest is even between the genders?

    Stories like this always come off as though there’s some shadowy cabal of hooded men passing down orders from on high as to how many women will be allowed into a profession/hobby/whatever.

    Don’t you think it could just be that there are simply twice as many guys out there that WANT to be TV writers?

    If your goal is to get a 50/50 split… what exactly do you propose to do to achieve that? Start telling girls that they can’t be hair stylists anymore because there are too many female hair stylists and not enough female TV writers? Start discouraging the extra guys from writing so the ladies have a better shot?

    Fairness and equality doesn’t happen when the ratio hits 50/50. It happens when gender is eliminated from the equation.