Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Women Writers: Who Needs Them?

In a stunning turn of events (at least stunning in my opinion) a new study shows that there are fewer women writers in the television industry than perhaps ever before. Unless you count the early days when women were hardly allowed to set foot in an  executive office.

Statistics show that only 15% of the writers in the television industry are women, despite the preponderance of television shows about women and for women (as a demographic.)

I can't help but wonder if this doesn't have more to do with the loss of general quality in the television industry and the growth of self-publishing. Perhaps more women are finding their literary fortunes writing books instead of being enslaved to the television industry. Or maybe they have simply grown disgusted with an industry that seems hell-bent on self-destruction; more interested in regurgitating content than creating new content.
I hope there are good reasons for this decline that have nothing to do with male dominance justifying itself. I would like to think we are more enlightened than we were thirty years ago, more able to find quality writers based on their talent than on their gender, but I am not certain.

In the season that just ended women held 25% of all jobs behind the scenes on TV. Here are the jobs tracked: creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography.  That is down from 27% the previous season.
Now the number that is staggering is the number of women writers.  That plummeted from 29% to 15%.  That stat is the number of women whose names appear as the writer of an episode.  (A random episode of every drama and sitcoms from the major networks were assessed for this stat.) That is not the number of female writers on the staff.  In TV writers come in at different levels.  The lowest level is staff writer and the highest level is executive producer.  There are several levels in between. 
And the stats show that “84% of the programs employed no women writers”  which means that 84% of the randomly selected episodes that were used for this evaluation had no female name on them at all.  Shameful.
Another stat worth lamenting - women created only 18% of the shows.  That means less than 1 in 5 of the shows you watch have a woman creator. 
Other takeaways:
•  Women hire women: Shows with female creators have more female characters
•  Directing on TV is just as bad as directing in films: women made up 11% of all directors, down 5 points from a year ago.
•  The CW has the most female characters with 52% and NBC has the least with 36%
•  43% of all major characters on TV shows were women - sitcoms has the least female characters and reality TV the most.
•  Women are younger than men on TV shows.
•  Most women on TV are white
•  Viewers are less likely to know about a woman’s job than a man’s.

Click here to read the entire article.

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