Over the last three years, the employment of women and minority TV writers has suffered a sharp fall.
According to a WGA-West study comparing the 2011-12 and 2013-14 TV seasons, writers rooms saw a 5% drop in women, from 30.5% of the workforce to 29%, as well as a 7% drop in minorities, from 15.6% to 13.7%.
“Women and minorities have actually lost ground as compared to their white male counterparts,” the study noted, “both in terms of overall staff positions and in higher-level executive producer ranks.”
Women made up 18.6% of executive producers in the earlier year studied, but just 15.1% two years later. “As women represent slightly more than half of the US population,” observed the study, “the group was underrepresented by a factor of more than 3-to-1 among the writers who ran television shows in 2013-14.”
ABC, who has led the charge in diversifying network TV, fared the best in hiring minority writers at 16.1%, followed by 14.2% at NBC, 13.9% at Fox, and just 11.3% at CBS. The number of minority showrunners in the same period also fell by a whopping 30%, from 7.8% in the 2011-12 season to 5.5% in the 2013-14 season.
“Studies show that audiences do prefer more diverse programming,” commented Dr. Darnell Hunt, the author of the study, who recently published a UCLA study finding that diverse movies earn more money and diverse TV shows attract more viewers. “I just don’t see how the industry is going to be viable if they don’t give increasingly diverse audiences what they want.”
The WGA-West report was based on employment patterns for nearly 3,000 writers working on close to 300 TV shows airing on 36 broadcast and cable networks during the 2013-14 season.