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Most Obvious Study Shows Making Women Showrunners Significantly Boosts Hiring of More Women

This week in "duh."


The problem with institutionalized sexism is right there in the name—even if a man believes everyone should be treated equally, he’s part of a system that unfairly favors him from the top levels and likely perpetuates it all the way down whether he means to or not. To drive that point home, here’s a study that found that when women are in positions of power on TV shows, a lot more women get hired behind the camera on those same shows.

This year’s Boxed In report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that when women were creators or executive producers—even if only just one woman in a group of men—those shows had about a 50% split between male and female writers, whereas shows created and produced exclusively by men had about 15% women in the writing room.

Deadline reports that for other crew positions, the numbers broke down like this (female creator/producer on the left):

  • 15% female directors vs. 9% female directors
  • 43% major female onscreen characters vs. 37%
  • 25% female editors vs. 13%

While those numbers aren’t as much of an improvement as with writers (and the characters perhaps not being a statistically significant difference at all, as specific episodes were selected at random and could account for a small difference), and 25% is still pretty low compared to women being a little over half the population, a two times improvement from the number with no women in power on a show still demonstrates the value of female creators.

Of course, there’s still mostly bad news for TV diversity in general, with the number of substantial female characters on major networks coming in anywhere from 45-39% (and many of them likely supporting a male protagonist), and ageism playing a part in everyone’s success—though affecting women more, as you could’ve guessed. And this report specifically looks at gender differences, though we all know that racial diversity is lacking, as well.

But it appears that the solution is a simple one: diverse creators and producers lead to diverse crews. Put women and people of different races in charge, and things will change much more readily.

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.