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Showrunners for New TV Season Remain Mostly White and Male

Despite the success of series like “Black-ish,” “Empire,” and “Fresh Off the Boat,” the broadcast networks’ push for diversity hit a stumbling block with the rollout of the new fall lineup. A Variety investigation into new scripted shows for the 2016-17 season reveals that 90% of showrunners are white, and almost 80% are male.

This is based on information provided by the five broadcast networks, which gave Variety the names of the showrunners of their new scripted programs (a total of 50 across 38 new series). Variety independently confirmed the race and gender of each, via multiple sources. All names and data used for this story is available below. (Showrunner designations were not yet available for four series — two at NBC and two at ABC — and information on those programs was not included in the statistical analysis of the new season.)

Showrunners not only determine the creative direction of their programs; they also oversee the hiring, firing, and mentoring that gives the next generation of creators a chance to ascend. Shows run by white men tend to lead to more shows led by white men.

A lack of inclusion behind the scenes also affects storytelling. A study from USC Annenberg’s Institute for Diversity and Empowerment noted that actresses are more likely to receive speaking roles if women are creators. But that organization’s most recent study, which was published in 2015, reported that men outnumber women as creators by more than 3 to 1 in all realms of TV, including cable and streaming. Meanwhile, for the 2014-15 season, 19% of broadcast network programs had no speaking roles for African-American characters, and 59% had none for Asian characters, Annenberg says.

Of the 50 showrunners for the new season, two are women of color, and three are men of color. Studies by the Writers Guild of America show that non-white writers have constituted no more than 13% of writers-room employment for several years (and in some years, the figure has been even lower).

Variety found that women, who constitute 51% of the American population, will run 22% of the new shows. That’s not much better than the state of affairs in 1997-98, when 18% of the shows on the broadcast networks had women creators, according to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Women of color remain largely excluded: There were no non-white female showrunners on new shows for ABC, CBS, or the CW as of press time. The small number of writers of color of either gender working as showrunners on new broadcast network programs demonstrate that in many ways, the path to one of the most powerful positions in TV remains obstructed for them.

It’s worth noting that a greater array of perspectives and cultural backgrounds might have prevented the kind of outcry there has been in recent months over a rash of deaths on TV. Shocking exits will always be a part of the TV scene, especially as the sheer number of scripted programs continues to grow, but given that straight, white men run the vast majority of TV shows on the air, it’s not surprising to find that death comes more often for populations that are already under-represented on the small screen, i.e., female characters, LGBT characters and non-white characters (a trend statistically confirmed by a recent Vox numerical analysis of the most recent season).

Presented with Variety’s findings, reps for the five networks gave background information on efforts to create opportunities for women and people of color, but all declined to address the statistics for the new season on the record.

Here is the data available at the time of publication for new shows for the 2016-2017 season on the broadcast networks.

New ABC fall and midseason scripted programs

“Conviction”
Showrunners:
Liz Friedman (white female)
Liz Friedlander (white female)

“Notorious”
Showrunner:
Josh Berman (white male)

“Time After Time”
Showrunner:
Kevin Williamson (white male)

“Downward Dog”
Showrunners:
Kat Likkel (white female)
John Hoberg (white male)

“American Housewife”
Showrunners:
Richard Weiner (white male)
Kenneth Schwartz (white male)

“Speechless”
Showrunner:
Scott Silveri (white male)

ABC shows not included in stats — showrunner designations not available

“Designated Survivor”
Executive Producers:
David Guggenheim (white male)
Simon Kinberg (white male)
Kiefer Sutherland (white male)
Mark Gordon (white male)
Nick Pepper (white male)
Suzan Bymel (white female)
Aditya Sood (South Asian male)

“Still Star-Crossed”
Executive Producers:
Heather Mitchell (white female)
Shonda Rhimes (African-American female)
Betsy Beers (white female)
Michael Goldstein (white male)
Michael Offer (white male)

New Fox fall and midseason scripted programs

“Lethal Weapon”
Showrunner:
Matt Miller (white male)

“The Exorcist”
Showrunner:
Rolin Jones (white male)

24: Legacy
Showrunners:
Manny Coto (Hispanic male)
Evan Katz (white male)

“APB”
Showrunner:
Trey Calloway (white male)

“Star”
Showrunners:
Charles Murray (African-American male)
Tom Donaghy (white male)

“Prison Break”
Showrunner:
Paul Scheuring (white male)

“Shots Fired”
Showrunner:
Gina Prince-Bythewood (African-American female)

“Pitch”
Showrunner:
Kevin Falls (white male)

“Son of Zorn”
Showrunner:
Sally Bradford (white female)

“The Mick”
Showrunner:
John Chernin (white male)
Dave Chernin (white male)

“Making History”
Showrunner:
Julius “Goldy” Sharpe (white male)

New CBS fall and midseason scripted programs

“Bull”
Showrunner:
Mark Goffman (white male)

“MacGyver”
Showrunner:
Peter Lenkov (white male)

“Pure Genius”
Showrunner:
Jason Katims (white male)

“Training Day”
Showrunner:
Barry Schindel (white male)

“Doubt”
Showrunners:
Tony Phelan (white male)
Joan Rater (white female)

“Kevin Can Wait”
Showrunner:
Rock Reuben (white male)

“The Great Indoors”
Showrunner:
Chris Harris (white male)

“Man with a Plan”
Showrunners:
Jeff Filgo (white male)
Jackie Filgo (white female)

New NBC fall and midseason scripted programs

“Great News”
Showrunner:
Tracey Wigfield: (white female)

“Marlon”
Showrunner:
Chris Moynihan (white male)

“Good Place”
Showrunner:
Mike Schur (white male)

“Trial and Error”
Showrunners:
Jeff Astrof (white male)
Matt Miller (white male)

“Powerless”
Showrunner:
Ben Queen (white male)

“Midnight Texas”
Showrunner:
Monica Owusu-Breen (African-American female)

“Timeless”
Showrunners:
Eric Kripke (white male)
Shawn Ryan (white male)

“This is Us”
Showrunner:
Dan Fogelman (white male)

“Taken”
Showrunner:
Alexander Cary (white male)

“Emerald City”
Showrunners:
David Schulner (white male)
Shaun Cassidy (white male)

NBC shows not included in stats — showrunner designations not available

“The Blacklist: Redemption”
Executive producers:
Jon Bokenkamp (white male)
John Eisendrath (white male)
John Fox (white male)
John Davis (white male)

“Chicago Justice”
Executive producers:
Dick Wolf (white male)
Peter Jankowski (white male)
Matt Olmstead (white male)
Derek Haas (white male)
Michael Brandt (white male)
Arthur Forney (African-American male)

New CW fall and midseasons scripted programs

“Frequency”
Showrunner:
Jeremy Carver (white male)

“No Tomorrow”
Showrunners:
Corinne Brinkerhoff (white female)
Maggie Friedman (white female)

“Riverdale”
Showrunner:
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Hispanic male)

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