TV Writing Staffs
WGAW report reflects slow progress in diversity. “Despite a few pockets of promise, much more work must
be done.”

(April 5, 2013) 

Despite incremental gains for women and minorities, diversity in TV staffing remains a serious problem, and staffing levels for diverse groups continue to be disproportionate to demographics within the U.S. population.

“We cannot tell the whole story if only half of us write it,” said WGAW President Chris Keyser, at the Guild’s news conference unveiling the findings of the 2013 TV Staffing report.

In the report, which was commissioned by the Guild, researcher and author Darnell Hunt, Ph.D., director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, found that the employment playing field in television writing remains far from level. “Despite a few pockets of promise, much more work must be done on the television diversity front before the corps of writers telling our stories looks significantly more like us as a nation,” said Hunt.

The report analyzed employment patterns for 1,722 writers working in 190 broadcast and cable TV shows during the 2011-2012 season. Some key findings:

  • The share of women on writing staffs increased about 5%, from 25% to 30.5 % between the 1999-00 and 2011-12 seasons. An increase, yes, but Hunt determined that at this rate it would take 42 years for women to reach parity with males in TV staffing. (Shows with the most women on staff included Grey’s Anatomy, The Big C, Unforgettable and 90210.)
  • Although minority writers doubled their share on staffs from 7.5% to 15.6% between 1999-00 and 2011-12 they are still severely underrepresented by a factor of 2 to 1. (Shows with the most minority writers included The Game, Grey’s Anatomy, Reed Between the Lines and Single Ladies.)
  • The good news came for writers over 40. For the first time, in 2011 writers over 40 claimed a majority share of TV staffing positions, up to 55.6% from 39.9% during the ten-year period. (The Simpsons led with 16 out of 21 writers over 40). The bad news is that almost a third of shows last season had no writers on staff who were over 50.
  • Among the ranks of executive producers who run shows, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of nearly 5 to 1, and women were unrepresented by a factor of more than 2 to 1 in the 2011-12 season.
  • 10% of TV shows last season had no female writers on staff, and nearly a third had no minority writers
  • In the 2010-11 television season, only 9% of pilots had at least one minority writer attached, while just 24% of pilots had at least one female writer attached.

These findings suggest that an important avenue to improve diversity in television involves finding ways to increase the participation of women and minorities at the very beginning of the pilot process each season.

Read the full Diversity in TV Staffing report 


Return to WriteNow homepage