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Women, People of Color Make Progress as TV Writers But Still Underrepresented in Top Jobs

Women and people of color are making progress as writers in television but systematic discrimination in hiring persists, according to the WGA West’s latest inclusion study.

Among the key findings of the WGA West’s Inclusion Report Card for the 2017-18 television season is that women and people of color remain underrepresented relative to their percentages in the U.S. population, and discrimination worsens at upper levels. The report found that 2,895 guild members were hired for writing jobs on programs airing across broadcast, cable and streaming platforms.

On TV writing staffs, people of color are mostly concentrated at lower levels. During the 2017-18 season, women made up half of staff writers, but as the job categories advance, the percentage of women in those positions dropped. Only 17% of TV executive producers were women, and only 24% of TV showrunners were women. Similarly, people of color composed 45% of staff writers, but only 12% of executive producers and 12% of showrunners.

Other statistics were similarly sobering, such as that writers with disabilities constitute less than 1% of employed TV writers, even though 56.7 million Americans identify as having a disability. Additionally, there is a near-total absence of staff writers over the age of 50, and numerous LGBTQ+ writers reported being told by agents and studio executives that they “don’t count as diverse.”

Even after being hired, 64% of writers from underrepresented groups reported bias, discrimination, and/or harassment in the workplace, according to the independent Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity.

The report did note there was some evidence of progress. As employment on TV series has doubled over the last decade, women have risen from 30% of the workforce to 35%, and people of color have increased their share from 17% to 27%.

The WGAW report ended with a call to studios and showrunners to improve the numbers for the 2019-20 TV staffing season. “With honesty, accountability, and continued effort, we can end unfair discrimination against writers and increase inclusion and equity across our industry,” the report stated.

To read the full Inclusion Report Card, click here.

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