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Directors Guild Finds ‘Lack of Real Progress’ in TV Hiring Practices of Women, Minorities

Women Minorties directors in Hollywood
Justin Metz for Variety

The television industry has made only slight improvements in the hiring of women and minority directors, a new report from the Directors Guild of America shows.

Women directed 17% of all episodes — versus 16% the prior year — from 4,000-plus episodes from 299 scripted series produced in the 2015-2016 network TV season and the 2015 cable season. Ethnic minorities (male and female) directed 19% of all episodes, a 1% increase over the prior year.

Those key numbers nearly matched those in a May report that was billed as a “sneak peek” to the 2015-16 Episodic Television Director Diversity Report.

Out of 299 series examined, 57 hired women or minorities to direct fewer than 15% of episodes, and 30 hired no women or minority directors at all — landing on the DGA’s “Worst Of” list.

DGA President Paris Barclay, one of the most high-profile TV directors, said the situation is unacceptable — and singled out the booming SVOD sector, where just 8% of SVOD episodes were directed by ethnic minorities, and 17% of episodes were helmed by women.

“These numbers shine a light on the lack of real progress by employers in this industry, plain and simple,” he said. “Of particular concern is the precedent being set by the fastest-growing category, streaming video. There’s a long road ahead for true change to be realized — because for that to happen, the pipeline will need to change at the point of entry. Employers will need to implement new hiring practices — from getting more people in the door and interviewing more diverse candidates, to hiring experienced directors instead of handing these jobs out as perks.”

The DGA named 30 (four more than in the 2014-15 season) to its “worst of” list of shows that have fewer than 15% of episodes directed by women and minorities: “11/23/63,” “Aquarius,” “Benders,” “Berlin Station,” Blunt Talk,” “The Detour,” “Dice,” “Difficult People,” “Fargo,” “Galavant,” “Game Shakers,” “Graves,” “Henry Danger,” “Heroes Reborn,” “Idiotsitter,” “Impaster,” “Into the Bandlands,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Longmire,” “Men Seeking Woman,” “Man Seeking “Woman,” “Marco Polo,” “Maron,” “The Muppets,” “Of Kings and Prophets,” School of Rock,” “The Shannara Chronicles,” “Those Who Can’t,” “Vice Principals,” and “Workaholics.”

Half a dozen of those series — “Galavant,” “Henry Danger,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Man Seeking Woman,” “Marco Polo,” and “Workaholics” — hired no minority or female directors in either year. The DGA also noted that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” did not use any female or minority directors since its debut in 2005, nor did “Workaholics” since its 2011 launch.

Several series made repeat appearances on the “Worst Of” ranking: “Aquarius,” “Galavant,” “Henry Danger,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Longmire,” “Man Seeking Woman,” “Marco Polo,” “Workaholics,” “Marvel’s Daredevil,” “Gotham,” “Ray Donovan,” “Ballers,” “The Librarians,” “Powers,” “Black Sails,” and “iZombie.”

Four shows — “Being Mary Jane,” The Game,” “Heartbeat,” and “Zoe Ever After” — dominated the “Best of” index with 100% of their episodes directed by women and minorities.

The DGA listed 73 series, or 24% of all series examined, that hired women or minorities to direct at least 40% of episodes for its “Best of List.” There were 25 shows which appeared on both last year’s list and this year’s: “Being Mary Jane,” “The Game,” “American Crime,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Black-ish,” “Last Man Standing,” “12 Monkeys,” “Empire,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “The Middle,” “Suits,” “Madam Secretary,” “Nicky,” “Ricky, Dicky & Dawn,” “Hit the Floor,” “Modern Family,” “The Odd Couple,” “Blue Bloods,” “The Fosters,” “Grimm,” “Nashville,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Chicago PD,” “Criminal Minds,” “Homeland,” and “Girls.”

The guild noted that three shows went from last year’s “Worst Of” list to this year’s “Best Of” list: “Sleepy Hollow” (11% to 44%), “Marvel’s Agent Carter” (12% to 40%), and “K.C. Undercover” (14% to 42%).

Broadcast led the way in the hiring of women (20%) while also hiring ethnic minority directors for 19% of its shows. Basic cable ranked lowest in the hiring of women at 14% and highest in the hiring of minority directors at 24%. Nearly a quarter of all basic cable episodes directed by ethnic minority helmers are attributed to Tyler Perry.

Premium cable (HBO, Showtime) hired women to direct 15% of episodes while ethnic minority directors handled only 10%.

CBS ranked at the top of the eight largest TV studios, with women and minorities directing 41% of episodes, followed by 37% each for Fox and NBC Universal, 32% for Disney/ABC, 30% for Viacom, 28% for Warner Bros., 23% for Sony, and 22% for HBO.

The report noted that there were a total of 4,061 episodes in the 2015-16 season — representing a 4% increase in total episodes since the 2014-15 season. In sheer numbers, women directed a total of 702 episodes, up 14%, while ethnic minorities directed 783 episodes, up 13%.

The actual number of episodes directed by Caucasian males increased slightly to 2,717 — three more than the year prior.