Hollywood has been putting weight and focus on diversity and inclusion when it comes to not only acting but directing and writing. Various studios and networks have put their best foot forward to do what they can to move the needle when it moves to representation with various programs — particularly ones that promote diverse TV writers. Because of these programs, one would think the industry is on the right track, but according to a new study from the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity (TTIE), diverse writers are in the room but their voices aren’t being heard and the advancement they are seeing is little to none.
In a study titled “Behind the Scenes: The State of Inclusion and Equity in TV Writing” released by TTIE and backed by the Pop Culture Collaborative, the curtain is pulled back on issues and experience facing diverse writers within Hollywood. This report marks the first time working TV writers have chimed in about inclusivity in the industry and the results are eye-opening, to say the least.
It was found that diverse writers that manage to get their foot in the door are often isolated, relegated to lower levels where they have little power to contribute and have little say in casting in order to improve representation on screen. It’s one thing to have diverse writers in the room and it’s another to have them be active participants. Based on the study, it seems that TV writers rooms have trouble completing the latter and are leaning into checkbox tokenism.
The study found that 64% of diverse writers reported having experienced bias, discrimination, and/or harassment by members of the writing staff with less than half reporting it. When it comes to pitching in the room, 53% have been rejected only to have a non-diverse writer pitch the same idea and getting accepted. 58% experienced pushback when pitching a non-stereotypical diverse character or storyline while 58% later experienced micro-aggressions in the room.
It was also revealed that 73% of diverse writers reported having to repeat a title at least once and 15% of the writers report they took a demotion in order to be on staff. Finally, 42% got their first or second job as “diversity slot” hires (i.e. tokenism) and there is an understanding that they are given the chance because they came at a discount.
TTIE is a project of the Pop Culture Collaborative and Women in Film. It is a group of gender and racially diverse television writers, producers, and showrunners who got together to conduct this confidential, methodological survey. The results may seem grim and sad when it comes to the progress of equity, but they are used to find potential solutions. The study also included recommendations and actions that can be taken based on these data-driven insights to change processes and opportunities for writers from diverse backgrounds within writers rooms, networks, and studios. The TTIE has also written an open letter that urges a call to action for the industry to take action to attain diversity instead of just talk about it. It has been signed by prominent TV writers, industry insiders, and showrunners including Lena Waithe, Joss Whedon, Jill Soloway, and others.
Read the full “Behind the Scenes: The State of Inclusion and Equity in TV Writing” study here.