×

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

  • Westworld Season 3 Trailer

    'Westworld' Season 3 Trailer Focuses on New Cast Member Aaron Paul

    Ahead of the final episode of “Game of Thrones,” HBO released the first trailer for the new season of another flagship show: “Westworld.” The first look at the third season of the sci-fi show puts the focus on new series regular Aaron Paul, best known for his run on “Breaking Bad.” The trailer doesn’t reveal [...]

  • Adam Lambert Libertine show, Front Row,

    Adam Lambert Does Double Performing Duty on 'Idol' as New Winner is Crowned

    A new “American Idol” winner was crowned Sunday night, but not before Adam Lambert returned to the stage for the season finale for a pair of performances that included his new single and a duet with eliminated contestant Dimitrius Graham Sunday. The show concluded with Louisiana teen Laine Hardy showered in confetti as he was [...]

  • Beyonce Emilia Clarke

    Emilia Clarke Worried Beyonce Would Hate Daenerys After 'Game of Thrones'' Final Season

    After eight seasons as the Mother of Dragons, “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke has a lot of celebrity fans. But the most impressive? Probably Queen Bey. In a New Yorker interview posted after Sunday night’s series finale, Clarke revealed that she met Beyonce at an Oscars after-party hosted by the musician and her husband, [...]

  • Game of Thrones Finale

    Why the 'Game of Thrones' Finale Couldn't Have Satisfied Everyone

    The “Game of Thrones” finale may have achieved a strange feat: Aiming for fan service while being constrained, by its very nature, to the reality that it would end up pleasing only very few. The episode was larded with character touches designed for devotees — from a title, at long last, for fan favorite Bronn, [...]

  • Game of Thrones Finale

    'Game of Thrones': Celebrity Fans Have Mixed Reaction to Series Finale

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the series finale of “Game of Thrones,” titled “The Iron Throne.”  Whether you loved it or hated it, the series finale of “Game of Thrones” was one for the history books. After the final episode aired Sunday night, fans across the globe took to [...]

  • ‘Game of Thrones’: 8 Shocking Moments

    ‘Game of Thrones’: 8 Shocking Moments From the Finale

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the finale of “Game of Thrones.” Well, that’s it. After the “Game of Thrones” finale, many of us will likely emulate Jon Snow and just retire North of the Wall. It was billed as one of the biggest events in TV history, and showrunners [...]

  • Front row: CBS THIS MORNING co-hosts

    CBS Hurls New Anchor Team Into TV's Morning-News Wars

    News Team: Assemble. CBS News plans to hurl a new anchor squad into TV’s morning-news wars Monday when a different trio – Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil –  takes the helm at “CBS This Morning.” The A.M. effort that has won critical plaudits by focusing on harder news topics, like international affairs and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content