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Women’s Employment in Primetime TV Stalls During Past 5 Years

After improving slowly but surely for two decades, growth in the number of women working on primetime TV shows has stalled during the past five years, according to the latest report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

The ranks of women working behind the scenes and on camera in primetime series during the 2013-14 season was essentially flat compared to 2012-13 and with the numbers from 2009-10, according to the report by Martha Lauzen, exec director of the center.

“Whereas we were seeing slow but incremental growth over the last two decades, in the last five years or so it appears that women’s employment has stalled both on screen and behind the scenes,” Lauzen said.

The numbers seem to contradict the anecdotal evidence that television is overflowing with meaty parts for women. Julianna Margulies (pictured), star of CBS’ “The Good Wife,” said as much in accepting her Emmy last month for lead actress in a drama.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Women accounted for 27% of creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography working on prime-time programs airing on the broadcast networks in 2013-14, a decrease of one percentage point from 2012-13 and even with employment figures from 2009-10.
  • The number of female characters in primetime dipped to 42% of all characters, down from 43% in 2012-13.
  • On programs with at least one woman creator, females comprised 47% of all characters. On programs with no women creators, females accounted for 39% of all characters.

Lauzen’s study is in its 17th year. This year’s survey included shows on the major broadcast nets, basic cablers and pay TV outlets, as well as Netflix.

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