Following a broadcast pilot season, in which no NBC pilots were helmed by a female director, NBC is stepping up its efforts to employ more female episodic directors with a new annual initiative, “Female Forward.” It is spearheaded by NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke, who made the announcement during the network’s portion of the TCA summer press tour, in partnership with top TV director Lesli Linka Glatter (Mad Men, Homeland). The new program will provide ten female directors with the opportunity to shadow up to three episodes of an NBC series, followed by an in-season commitment to direct at least one episode of the series she shadows. “Female Forward” will begin with the 2018-19 season on 10 NBC series with the intent of expanding the number of directors and shows in subsequent years. The goal is to achieve gender parity among scripted series directors across the network.

“There’s a huge drought of female directors and females across the board in our business,” Salke said. “And we were really determined, after pilot season and after staffing directors for the first season, to do something actionable about that finally. It’s an honor to have a partner and advocate in the amazing Lesli Linka Glatter, who shares these ideals with us and has passionately acted as a mentor to other women throughout her career.”

Linka Glatter is the most successful female drama episodic director working today. She has earned five best drama series director Emmy nominations to date for her work on Mad Men and Homeland. She is directing the first two episodes of NBC’s upcoming Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders limited series. There were female directors shadowing her on both Homeland and The Menendez Murders. And NBC has slated another female director, Holly Dale, to follow Linka Glatter and direct the third and fourth episode of the limited series.

“It shouldn’t be harder for our daughters to direct than for our sons. It should be an equal playing field,” Linka Glatter said. “I’m truly optimistic that with this kind of commitment from the incredible Jen Salke and NBC Entertainment, we can actually make a difference. A program like this is a game changer and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”

This new “Female Forward” initiative is part of NBC’s overall efforts to increase diversity spearheaded by Karen Horne, SVP, Programming Talent Development & Inclusion.

“It’s absolutely thrilling to help forge a path for female directors in such a meaningful way, and this new initiative is a great complement to our current Emerging Directors Program, which has been one of our tentpole talent pipeline programs for nearly a decade,” said Horne.

She listed two writer-producers, a director and an actor who came out of NBC’s various programs for discovering diverse talent: Alan Yang, Mindy Kaling, Sharat Raju, and LilRel Howery. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this program will springboard the success of many future female directors, and I’m very much looking forward to that future,” Horne said.