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September 09 2011

Why is TV losing women writers? Maureen Ryan investigates why the number of staffed female writers has been halved in the last five years. Features quotes from Whedon alums Jane Espenson and Shawn Ryan, and mentions Felicia Day.

Very interesting, if depressing, article.

We were talking about this last night. The data is a little wonky.
It always irritates me to see women being discussed of as a "minority". That's such balogne. Sometimes I feel as though feminism perpetuates the problem just as much as sexism does. And who's to say this particular issue isn't just coincidental? Last I heard, my favorite television show (Mad Men) is comprised of female writers by majority. Of course this wasn't even mentioned in that article.
FWIW, here (pdf) is the executive summary of the SDSU study.
And who's to say this particular issue isn't just coincidental?


I was thinking the same thing when I read about women in the comic book industry and indeed the book review sector. If I was a cynical chap, I'd be thinking that all these coincidences would be starting to indicate a pattern of institutional bias towards men in the entertainment industry.
Sometimes I wish I understood statistics. But I wouldn't trade my art classes for it.

I appreciate all the various suppositions as to why the situation exists. It paints a nicely complex picture of the Hollywood machine for us outsiders.

That's a really nice PDF b!X. Thank you. I thought this:

The representation of behind-the-scenes women differs substantially by network. Women accounted for 28% of behind- the-scenes individuals at CW and ABC, followed by 26% at CBS, 22% at NBC, and 18% at Fox.

...makes sense, given what I see on the networks.

******

"...there is no brand that would be willing to be associated with the idea of such an anti-heroic woman."

That bit really makes me want to write a "anti-heroic woman" and see if I can make her attractive as a character. I think there's gonna be some percolating in my brain pan.
Drakath, it is true that women aren't a physical minority in terms of numbers. But in terms of actual power and access to that power, we are sadly still very much in the minority. It's a shame that the label applies, but unfortunately there is still a lot of work to do.
In this day and age there's alot more access to that "power" than ever before, and alot more than most are willing to realize (often even consciously). It comes down to what you choose to do or what you want with your life.
Last I heard, my favorite television show (Mad Men) is comprised of female writers by majority. Of course this wasn't even mentioned in that article.

The article was prompted by a study that focused on broadcast network programs, a study that's done that for several years running. Usable numbers for cable programming weren't available.

I do still find the methodology weird. In this day and age, it's simply not necessary to randomly choose one episode per program and use the numbers from that episode to represent the program. I don't understand why the study didn't perform an actual hard count.

(I suspect the trend would be reflected in those hard numbers as well, but it'd have been nice to have the actual hard numbers given that the only obstacle to having them is concerted effort.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2011-09-09 20:50 ]
Drakath, are you saying if those whiny women just "chose" to work harder and really knew what they "wanted" then it would all be ok?

If that wasn't your intent, could you please flesh that statement out a bit more? Thanks.
Oh, it's improved in some countries, but there's still massive issues Drakath. Females make 14% of board members for FTSE-100 companies, for example.

It's one of those things which also follows a pattern. Years back, several successful females with deals hired more diverse writing staff. Unfortunately a few deals got terminated, which resulted in less new female driven shows, which resulted in less female writers, which resulted in less female development deals, and so the cycle continues.

Cable numbers are available - you just have to manually compile 'em (unless somebody else does). I did it last year, I seem to recall HBO (I think) sucked, but USA were great. Or the other way around.

[ edited by gossi on 2011-09-09 20:50 ]
It's not that cable numbers aren't available; it's that neither source used for the article had them. (Except for some small selection in the SDSU study this year; it's unclear how wide it was.)
IrrationaliTV, so you can nitpick and twist it to your satisfaction because the first time wasn't enough? I think I've made my side of the fence clear. My statement is relevant to absolutely any human being, it is you that chose to attach it to women (with a derogatory adjective no less).

[ edited by Drakath on 2011-09-09 20:57 ]
Oh. It's my fault. Ok.
The exchange went like this:
deepgirl187: Drakath, it is true that women aren't a physical minority in terms of numbers. But in terms of actual power and access to that power, we are sadly still very much in the minority.
Drakath: In this day and age there's alot more access to that "power" than ever before, and alot more than most are willing to realize (often even consciously). It comes down to what you choose to do or what you want with your life.
So it seems to me that IrrationliTV's question was justified. It was also the same question, the first question, that came to my mind as well. If you don't like how it was phrased, that's fine. But the underlying question is still the one your statement prompts.
If it is true, I'd bet a large part has to do with the economy. Women have always got a shorter stick in the workplace financially; so when the financials get tough, it makes sense that they'd get hit first/hardest.
Well, I think we can all agree that I'm treading on thin ice here. I am not going to try to explain something, misstep, and only invite more ambiguity and misunderstanding. I'm sorry what I said made you feel that way.
@ Simon,

As far as the "women in the comic book industry" link goes, that only shows Marvel & DC. Which means something, the true significance of that something being open to endless discussion and debate. But I did think it worth mentioning that Marvel & DC, as large as they are, are absolutely not synonymous with the entire industry.

As far as the "women in the comic book industry" link goes, that only shows Marvel & DC.


The writer also looks at Image and Dark Horse. Dark Horse seems to be the best but that's not saying much.
Simon, thank you for the comic info. I hypothesize the small number of women creators in the industry might have something to do with why I can barely stand to even look at most of the mainstream books out there right now. I really don't like most of the art I see and I just can't seem to get past it to try out the stories. :(
No matter how hard you work, or how talented you are, it doesn't matter if someone won't hire you because of a preconceived notion that you're inferior due to your plumbing. You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if no one is willing to sell you a pair of boots.

However, again, this data is weird. It seems to separate producer credits from writing credits, and mostly? The producers are writers. It's essentially the same thing in television. I don't think the picture is this grim. I mean, it's still on the crappy side of sexism (is there a good side? wait. moar coffee), but I don't know that these results will mesh with the WGA stats.
Along with what you said Allyson, we still have to consider that network TV writing is an exceptionally small industry and therefore it is a bit suspect to see a drop in a demographic and immediately make conclusions about the overall trend of the system.

In most industries, when you look at a statistic from year to year, things stay relatively stable because the sample size is fairly large. In addition, most businesses don't suffer the turnover the same failure rate per year that TV shows do. So from year to year, in TV you have the ability to move your demographic breakdown substantially simply depending on who's getting renewed, who's getting cancelled, and what is the breakdown of the writers rooms entering the market. Add to that the downward pressure on the sample size from scripted being replaced with reality TV, and you have even noisier statistics.

I'm not saying this to say female writers don't face problems, just that it may be better to look at the split over time. I'd really like to see this plotted graphically over time, the moving average, and the standard deviation.

Quick Edit: I've seen the executive summary version. Is there a link to the full study?

[ edited by azzers on 2011-09-10 06:33 ]
Jobo, must question those numbers. Think women writers are doing partiality well. And they should, wonderful stories I've been reading......or was it a dream?
From the PDF that b!X provided, I'd be interested to know the reasoning behind the 96-4 ratio for DPs.

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