Original streaming shows in the 2019-2020 TV season featured “substantially” more women as protagonists than shows on cable or broadcast, according to a report from the Center for the Study of
Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
The annual “Boxed In” report found that 42% of streaming programming had “clearly identifiable sole female protagonists,” vs. 27% of cable programs and 24% of shows on broadcast. The study, which tracked over 4,100 characters and more than 4,200 behind-the-scenes credits, additionally found that streaming originals were just as likely to have female protagonist as male protagonists.
There were more creators, directors, writers, executive
producers, producers, editors, and directors of photography on original streaming programs than ever, with the percentage of women directors working on the most recent TV season spiking to 32% from 15% in the 2018-2019 season. Women directors of photography jumped to 17% from 3% in the prior-year season.
“The gains demonstrate that streamers are outpacing both the broadcast networks and cable channels in hiring key behind-the-scenes women and in telling stories from a female perspective,” said the Center’s executive director, Dr. Martha Lauzen.
But some areas remain highly underrepresented. The percentage of Latina characters on screen dipped to 5% from 6% in the 2019-2020 TV season. And across streaming, cable and broadcast, the percentage of female characters in speaking roles slipped to 43% from 45%.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Black female characters rose to 20% from 17%, and the percentage of Asian women on screen increased slightly to 8% from 7%. And 66% of female characters were white, down from seven out of 10 in the prior TV season.
Across the board, women were likelier than men to play “personal life-oriented roles, such as wife and mother,” whereas men were likelier to play work-oriented roles, like business executive.
The study, now in its 23rd year, found that in key behind-the-scenes roles, 31% were women — the same level as last season — and shows employed “relatively low” numbers of women in behind-the-scenes roles, with 63% of programs hiring five or fewer women in such positions. That compares to only 16% of shows that had employed five or fewer men.
And among creators, 28% were women this past season, an uptick from 25% last season. Notably, the study’s authors found that programs with at least one woman creator hired “substantially greater percentages of women in other key behind-the-scenes roles and featured more female characters than programs with exclusively male creators.”
The full report can be found here.