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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock your entire life and have no clear grasp of what television is, you’re probably aware that the world of small screen entertainment, like so many other areas of business, is predominantly a man’s world. Though things have definitely changed in the past 20-30 years on that front, the balance still tips towards men. But the times are a-changing, at least on series that have female showrunners and female executive producers, where you can find many more women employed both on-screen and off. Progress!
The latest Boxed In report, from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, took a look at the 2014-2015 TV season – which included broadcast, cable and Netflix programming – and found that the presence of women on the creative side of things heavily influenced how many women were involved with other aspects of each series. And the difference between broadcast and cable was larger than you might think.
On shows with at least one woman as an executive producer, 42% of the major characters were women, while female creators had 46%; comparatively, shows without female execs and creators had 35% and 39%, respectively. In the writing room, women accounted for 32% of the scribes on shows with female execs and 49% on shows with female creators, while programs with solely male execs had a paltry 8% of female writers, and 15% on ones without women creators. The numbers are similarly skewed when it comes to directors, editors, etc.
Of the shows on TV and streaming in the past year, women made up 25% of the creative side of things – including producers, creators, directors, etc. – which was pretty much the same as the year before. There is growth, however minute, in the percentage of female creators and executive producers. On-screen, 40% of all both speaking characters and major characters were females, which is also basically the same as it was in the 2013-2014 season. Things get even more skewed once age factors into it, but that’s an entirely different argument (that probably sounds very similar).
You can bet that percentages like that are skewed by shows like Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black, where almost the entire cast is female. (I guess there aren’t a whole lot of shows out there like that, but still.) The reason why we can easily namecheck people like Kohan and drama juggernaut Shonda Rhimes are because they’re far more rare than male creators and executive producers. We’re hoping they, along with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and every other female currently pushing their ideas through the airwaves, inspire many more women to bring these percentages closer to equal in the coming years.
Incidentally, they’d have a better shot at going through ABC, where 45% of major characters are female. Just a tip.