The Writers Guild of America West has released its first “Inclusion Report Card” for the 2017-2018 TV staffing season, and the report’s findings aren’t surprising. The study shows that systemic discrimination against writers from historically underrepresented groups — specifically women, people of color, seniors and the disabled — remains widespread in TV writer hiring practices.
Released as part of an ongoing effort to promote transparency and accountability, the report relies on the WGAW’s own employment data on the 2,985 jobs that existed during the 2017-18 TV staffing season across all platforms.
Key findings include:
- Women and people of color remain underrepresented relative to their percentages in the overall U.S. population. Just 36% of staffed writers are women, and women represent just 24% of showrunners.
- People of color represent 27% compared to the 39% of the overall population. Discrimination gets notably worse for people of color at the upper levels: In 2018, only 12% of TV showrunner roles were held by people of color.
- Meanwhile, the numbers are even worse for writers with disabilities, who comprise less than 1 percent of staffed writers, even though they make up 19% of the population.
- For LGBTQ+ writers, data is incomplete at the time of this report, per the WGAW, who reveal that numerous LGBTQ+ writers report being told by agents and studio executives that they “don’t count as diverse.” In response, the WGAW issued a statement on its position on LGBTQ+ writers, saying that they are “without question members of a historically underrepresented group who are still fighting for equal rights and who still face hiring discrimination.”
- The report card also called attention to ageism, noting that while there are writers at the highest levels working well past 50, most of them got their start much earlier in life, and are therefore already established. With a “near-total absence” of staff writers over 50, a clear case for systemic age discrimination exists.
- And even after hiring, the report finds that 64% of writers from historically underrepresented groups still face bias, harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace.
Ultimately, the report shows the TV industry still has a long way to go in remedying the above issues if it wants to achieve anything that resembles genuine parity across all groups.
To that end, the Guild offers solutions, starting with offering up its extensive “Find a Writer” directory as an industry hiring resource for those seeking writers from historically underrepresented groups. It strongly encourages all studios and showrunners to continue working towards solutions that will improve upon 2018’s numbers in the 2019 TV staffing season, in a continued effort to amplify inclusion and equality across the industry.
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The full Inclusion Report Card, a product of the WGAW’s Inclusion and Equity Group, can be read here.