Women and minority writers made gains in Hollywood employment over the past decade, but their representation still lags far behind the demographics of the U.S. population, according to a report released Wednesday by the Writers Guild of America, West.
“Despite a few pockets of promise, much more work must be done on the television diversity front before the corps of writers telling our stories look significantly more like us as a nation,” according to study author Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.
The report analyzed employment patterns for 1,722 writers on 190 broadcast and cable television shows during the 2011-12 season. It found that between the 1999-2000 and 2011-12 television seasons, the percentage of women writers increased from 25 percent to 30.5 percent. At that rate of increase, it will be another 42 years before the employment of female writers matches the U.S. population, according to the report.
Minority writers more than doubled their representation on writing staffs over the same time period, but still stood at just 15.6 percent, the report found. During the 2011-12 season, 10 percent of television shows had no female writers on staff, while nearly one-third had no minority writers.
The report also found that during the 2011-12 season, women were under-represented by more than two-to-one among writers who run television shows, while minorities were under-represented by a factor of nearly five to one.
“It all begins with the writing,” Hunt said. “From concept to characters, from plot to narrative, writers play a fundamental role in the fashioning of stories a society circulates about itself.
“But in the Hollywood entertainment industry, unfortunately, there has all too often existed a disconnect between the writers hired to tell the stories and an America that’s increasingly diverse with each passing day,” he said.
The WGAW administers a Writer Access Project aimed at identifying diverse writers with television experience and helping to expose their work to showrunners, industry executives, agents and managers. The program identifies minority writers, writers with disabilities, women, writers over 55 and LGBT writers.
“Programs like this one are important because they ensure that all of the hard-working and talented voices out there are recognized and given a fair and equal opportunity for employment,” according to Shonda Rhimes, creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” and a WAP judge. “No doubt about it, this is a win-win situation and an impactful program.”