Despite some slow progress over the last decade, women and minorities remain dramatically underrepresented on TV writing staffs, according to a UCLA/WGA West report released Tuesday. The document – the 2013 WGAW TV Staffing Report – was prepared for the WGAW by Darnell Hunt, a UCLA sociologist who is director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies.
The numbers are daunting: Minorities are underrepresented on TV staffs by a factor of 2 to 1 in comparison to their percentage of the population. Among executive producers, women are underrepresented by 2 to 1 and minorities by 5 to 1.
“In the Hollywood entertainment industry, unfortunately, there has all too often existed a disconnect between the writers hired to tell the stories and an America that’s increasingly diverse with each passing day,” Hunt said. The report looked at 190 shows on 28 broadcast and cable networks, which employ 1,722 writers.
“We can’t tell the whole story if only half of us write it,” said WGA West president Christopher Keyser at a morning event at which the report was presented.
There are signs of progress, albeit slow. Minority representation doubled over the last decade (2011-12 season compared with 1999-2000). But during that same period, female representation inched up a mere 5 percent — a rate of increase so sluggish that parity to men won’t be achieved for another 42 years unless faster progress is made.
Hunt remarked that he had considered subtitling the report “Pockets of Promise, Minimal Progress.”
The report also looked at age-related issues and found that for the first time, writers over 40 have over 50 percent of all staff positions. On the other hand, nearly a third of shows had no writers over 50, suggesting a sharp drop-off occurs.
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