A new study has found a direct link between the gender of the creators and executive producers of TV shows and the number of women they employ on screen and behind the scenes. The report found that shows with at least one female creator were twice as likely to hire female directors; nearly three times as likely to employ female writers, and half-again as likely to hire female editors as shows with exclusively male creators.
The report from Dr. Martha Lauzen and the Center for the Studio of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State (read it here) found that on shows with at least one female creator, women comprised 27% of directors, while on shows with exclusively male creators, women accounted for only 13% of directors.
It found that on shows with at least one woman creator, females made up 45% of the writers, while on programs with exclusively male creators, women accounted for only 16% of writers, and that on programs with at least one woman creator, women comprised 32% of the editors, compared to only 22% on shows with exclusively male creators.
The report also found that on shows with at least one female executive producer, women accounted for 42% of major characters, while on programs with exclusively male executive producers, females accounted for only 33% of major characters.
“We will see these behind-the-scenes employment disparities reflected at the Emmys next Monday night where ultimately there will be fewer women on stage being celebrated for excellence in their respective craft areas,” Lauzen told Deadline. “It’s a vicious cycle of underemployment which results in less recognition which, in turn, reinforces skewed gender ratios behind the scenes.”
The employment of women working in key behind-the-scenes positions on broadcast network programs, meanwhile, “has stalled, with no meaningful progress over the last decade,” according to the report. On broadcast network shows aired during the 2017-18 season, women made up only 27% of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography – a decline from 28% in 2016-17, and an increase of only one percentage point from 2006-07.
Across all platforms, women fared best as producers (40%), followed by executive producers (26%), writers (25%), editors (24%), creators (22%), directors (17%), and directors of photography (3%). Female directors of photography have the farthest to go of any job category to reach equality on broadcast network shows, accounting for just 1% of DPs hired on those shows this season.
Among actors, the report found that across all platforms, females accounted for 40% of all speaking characters this year – a decline of two percentage points from 2016-17, and below the level achieved in 2012-13. By platform, females accounted for 41% of all speaking characters on broadcast network shows, 40% on cable programs, and 39% on streaming shows.
Overall, 68% of the programs featured casts with more male than female characters in 2017-18; 11% had ensembles with equal numbers of female and male characters, and 21% featured casts with more female than male characters — percentages that reflect no change from 2016-17.
One of the few bright spots for women in the report is the finding that across all platforms, the percentage of Latina characters in speaking roles reached an “historical high” in 2017-18, increasing from 5% in 2016-17 to 7% in 2017-18. Despite this increase, however, the report found that “Latinas remain the most underrepresented ethnic group when compared to their representation in the U.S. population.”
Black characters remained steady at 19% of all female characters in speaking roles, while the percentage of female Asian characters in speaking roles also remained unchanged at 6% in 2017-18. The report did not include Native Americans.
The report also found that across all platforms, female characters were more likely than males to play personal life-oriented roles, such as wife and mother, while male characters were more likely to play work-oriented roles, such as business executives. According to the report, 58% of male characters and 42% of females were seen playing professional roles.
Female characters also tend to be younger than their male counterparts. For example, on basic and premium cable shows, the report found that the majority of female characters were in their 20s and 30s (59%), while the majority of male characters were in their 30s and 40s (53%). The report found that 43% of male characters were 40 or older, but that only 24% of female characters were 40 or older. This disparity was even greater among older characters. The report found that 8% of male characters on cable shows were 60 or over, while only 2% of female characters were 60 or older.
The study examined the portrayal of female characters and employment of women in key behind-the-scenes roles on drama, comedy, and reality programs appearing on the broadcast networks, basic and premium cable channels, and on streaming services from September 2017 through May 2018. The study chose one randomly selected episode of series appearing on the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW), basic cable channels (A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BET, Bravo, Discovery, Disney, E, Freeform, FX, HGTV, History, Nickelodeon, TBS, TLC, TNT, USA), premium cable channels (HBO, Showtime), and streaming services (Amazon, Hulu, Netflix). According to the report, “Random selection is a frequently used and widely accepted method of sampling episodes from the population of episodes in a season.”