Female directors broke another glass ceiling tonight when Reed Morano won an Emmy for best director in a drama series for The Handmaid’s Tale. Morano is only the third woman ever to win the category — and the first in 22 years — after Karen Arthur for Cagney & Lacey in 1985 and Mimi Leader won for ER in 1995. Arthur was the first female director to get an Emmy nomination in the category 30 years after it was launched.

There was a hint of the things to come at the nominations stage when three female directors — tied as the most ever — made the cut, Kate Dennis and Reed Morano for Handmaid’s Tale and Lesli Linka Glatter for Homeland. 

This is big as only a handful of female directors have been nominated in the past 60+ years. It is symbolic that one of them was Patty Jenkins (in 2011 for The Killing) who this year shattered the boxoffice record for a female director with Wonder Woman, opening more doors for women to helm tentpole movies.

The others on the list are Gabrielle Beaumont (1986), Sharon Miller (1987), Kim Friedman (1988), Mimi Leder (91, 92, 95, 96, 2006), Nancy Malone (92, 93), Laura Innes (2001), Arlene Sanford (2008), Michelle MacLaren (2010, 2013) and Glatter (10, 13 15, 16) and Agnieszka Holland (2010). There have been multiple female nominees only three times before, 1992 (2), 2010 (2) and 2013 (2).

The Emmy for Morano comes at a time where there is an increasing effort on part of the TV industry to boost the number of female directors with initiatives like Ryan Murphy’s Half —  aiming to hire 50% female directors to work on all his television shows — which he launched last year, and FX’s push in increasing director diversity. NBC this summer unveiled a new NBC initiative, Female Forward, which, starting with the 2018-2019 season, will provide female directors with the opportunity to shadow episodes of an NBC series, followed by an in-season commitment to direct at least one episode. The goal to achieve gender parity among scripted series directors across the network.

Additionally, DuVernay’s OWN drama series Queen Sugar employs all female directors, almost all of whom are women of color, with Shondaland’s dramas also known for giving female minority directors a shot. Handmaid’s Tale also featured predominantly female directors.  
This is not the first milestone achievement for Morano, who started as a cinematographer, earning Emmy nominations foe her work. She was invited to join the American Society of Cinematographers in 2013, making her the youngest member and one of only 14 women in an organization of approximately 345 active members.
Morano made her directorial debut with the feature film Meadowland, starring Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi and John Leguizamo. The Handmaid’s Tale, was her first pilot directing job.
It was a big night for The Handmaid’s Tale, which tied with Big Little Lies for most wins with five apiece, including outstanding drama series. It also won for best lead actress in a drama series, Elisabeth Moss; writing for a drama series, Bruce Miller; supporting actress, Ann Dowd; and guest actress Alexis Bledel.