×

WGA West Report Shows Diversity Still Lacking in TV Writing

Slight gains registered for women, minorities; scribes over 40 see increases

Diversity among Hollywood’s TV writers falls short of reflecting the actual demographics of the U.S. population, a study from the Writers Guild of America West shows.

The findings were unveiled Tuesday by UCLA professor Darnell Hunt in a news conference at the WGA West headquarters in Hollywood. It was fifth time that Hunt, director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, has been commissioned by the guild to write the report since 2005.

“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.”

Hunt said that execs who make hiring decisions tend to opt for writers they already know and are comfortable working with.

“That tends to be white males,” he added.  “It’s a tough cycle to break.”

The report — analyzing a 1,722 writers working on 190 shows during the 2011-12 season — showed that women writers’ share of employment on TV staffs has increased from 25% in 1999-2000 to 30.5% in 2011-2012.

“At this rate of increase, it would be another 42 years before women reach proportionate representation in TV staff employment,” Hunt added.

The study also showed:

— Minority staffing increased from 7.5% in 1999-2000 to 15.6% in 2011-12.

— Women were under-represented by more than 2-to-1 in the executive producer ranks while minorities were under-represented by nearly 5 to 1.

— 10% of TV shows in the 2011-12 season had no female writers and nearly a third had no minority writers.

— Only 24% of pilots during the 2010-11 season had at least one women writer attached and only 9% had a minority writer attached.

The study showed a positive development for writers over 40 years old, who claimed a majority of TV staff posts in 2011-12 at 55.6%. That number was 39.9% in the 1999-2000 season.

The Simpsons” led the way with the highest number of writers over 40 — 16 of 21. Shows with a majority of women writers included “90210,” “The Big C,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Single Ladies” and “Unforgettable”; shows with a majority of minority scribes included “The Game,” “Reed Between the Line” and “Single Ladies.”

“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,” Hunt said.

WGA West President Christpher Keyser introduced Hunt by saying, “We cannot tell the whole story if only half of us write it.’

The event also recognized 10 writers who submitted scripts as part of its four-year-old Writers Access Project. The guild will showcase the scripts,  judged by writers including Glen Mazzara (“The Walking Dead”), Alfredo Barrios Jr. (“Burn Notice”) and Elaine Ko (“Modern Family”), on the www.wga.org web site.

The honorees for comedy are Michael DiGaetano, Joey Manderino, Joseph Neustein and Lena Waithe. Drama honorees are Sherry Carnes, Dawn Comer Jefferson, Margaux Froley, Geetika Lizardi, Leslie Valdes and Thomas Wong.

More TV

  • Beyonce-HOMECOMING-Netflix

    Beyoncé, Sara Bareilles Vie for First Emmys as Ramin Djawadi Looks to Reclaim Throne

    Beyoncé and Sara Bareilles could add Emmy trophies to their awards shelves this year, having been nominated in key music categories Tuesday by the Television Academy. Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” special on Netflix was nominated in six categories, and four of those include a nod for the pop superstar herself. Only one of those is in a [...]

  • Disney Content Sales President Janice Marinelli

    Disney Content Sales President Janice Marinelli to Depart

    Janice Marinelli, president of global sales and marketing at Walt Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international segment, said Tuesday that she would step down from her role after a 34-year career at the company. “It has been an honor to work for this company and a privilege to work with so many outstanding professionals,” said Marinelli in [...]

  • Dusty Slay

    Late-Night Bookers Take to the Internet in Search of Emerging Comics

    With Netflix releasing a comedy special every week and YouTube offering a portal into both cutting-edge performance and the best comedy sets in history, it’s never been easier for audiences to access an endless stream of standup. But for fledgling comics, there’s still no more game-changing showcase than a five-minute slot on a late-night talk [...]

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    CBS Warns DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse May Drop Network

    Some of CBS Corp.’s biggest stations and its flagship network could be dropped from AT&T’s various cable and satellite services if a carriage agreement between the companies is not reached by July 19. “CBS has reached timely, fair agreements with hundreds of other cable, satellite, telco and internet providers to carry our industry-leading, fan-favorite programming,”  [...]

  • Billy Porter, 2019 Oscars Gown, Actors

    Watch Emilia Clarke, Billy Porter and More 2019 Emmy Nominees on Variety's 'Actors on Actors'

    What did Emmy nominee Billy Porter from “Pose” learn about women from co-nominee Rachel Brosnahan on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?” What does Michael Douglas respect the most about Benicio del Toro’s acting ability? And how does Maya Rudolph’s recent meditations on the afterlife in the “The Good Place” coincide with the conversations Natasha Lyonne’s thoughts [...]

  • Russian Doll

    2019 Emmy Nominations Did Right by a Great Year in Comedy (Column)

    Even before the 2019 Emmy nominations were announced, the biggest and most obvious story belonged to the fact that last year’s drama nominees almost completely cleared the way for the final season of “Game of Thrones.” But for as weak as the drama categories are overall (give or take a “Pose”), the comedy categories have [...]

  • Big Little Lies Stranger Things

    Here's Why 'Big Little Lies' and 'Stranger Things' Weren't Nominated for 2019 Emmys

    Meryl Streep joined “Big Little Lies” this season, and “Stranger Things” broke a Netflix record — so why didn’t either show score an Emmy nomination? Every year, critically acclaimed and fan-favorite shows are noticeably omitted from the Emmy nominations, but not because they were snubbed. It’s because they’re not eligible.  This year, ineligible series include [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content