Female leaders are leading the push for more diversity in television, both on-camera and behind the scenes, according to a new study.
Prime-time shows with a female creator or executive producer hire a greater percentage of women, according to the 2014-15 “Boxed In” report by Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
For programs that had at least one female executive producer or creator, more characters were female, as well as more directors, writers and editors.
“Women hire women,” Melissa Silverstein, the founder and editor of Women and Hollywood, said. “When women get more positions of power and have the ability to hire, what this shows is [that] they are using their clout.”
The report looked at programs from 2014-15 on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, the CW, Netflix and cable channels HBO, Showtime, A&E, AMC, FX, History, TNT and USA Network. It was compiled using data from one randomly selected episode of each series.
On these shows, women comprised 38 percent of producers, 25 percent of writers, 23 percent of executive producers and 22 percent of creators. The number of female directors was still relatively low, at 12 percent, and dismally low for directors of photography, only 1 percent of whom were women.
Fifty-seven percent of programs surveyed employed four or fewer women, but only 5 percent employed four or fewer men.
The difference was especially stark among writers. Women comprised 32 percent of writers on programs led by women and 8 percent and programs not led by women. On programs that were created by women, 49 percent of writers were female, as opposed to 15 percent on programs with no female creators.
The numbers still leave a lot to be desired, having “flatlined” in several categories, Silverstein said. The percentage of female characters on broadcast networks stayed the same, at 42 percent, from last year’s count. The number of female executive producers fell by 1 percent from 2012-13. The number of female writers and directors on broadcast programs increased by 1 percent from last year.
Women were 26 percent of writers on network programs, an increase of 1 percent from last year, and 14 percent of directors, also an increase of 1 percent from last year.
Moreover, female characters in all categories are still primarily young and white. Only 19 percent of female characters were in their forties, as opposed to 60 percent in their twenties and thirties, the study said.
And the differences in racial diversity are especially stark: 78 percent of all female characters were white, 13 percent were African-American, 4 percent were Latina and 4 percent were Asian, while 1 percent were “other” races or ethnicities, the report said.
These findings are troubling given the implications for women and minorities who still do not see themselves well-represented in popular culture, Silverstein said.
“The entertainment industry needs to reflect the people who participate and pay for the content,” she said. “When we don’t have a diversity of stories, and a diversity of people, the message people get who don’t see themselves is that you don’t count.”