Friday, The Writers Guild of America West has released a new inclusion report that had positive news as well as, let’s just say there’s more work to do. The report focuses on writers, providing up-to-date facts and figures in an effort to help drive positive change for writers from underrepresented groups. The good news is well, if you are a white male under 50, you’re in pretty good shape. Congrats.
The WGAW currently identifies five major groups of underrepresented writers:
- People of Color
- People with Disabilities
- People Over 55 – specifically those working at the middle and lower levels
- People in the LGBTQ+ Community
While The Guild believes that parity in employment for underrepresented TV writers could be achieved “within two years,” the guild said that “systemic discrimination” may be a bigger issue.
“If these trends continue, women and people of color could achieve parity in TV employment within the next two years.” the report states. “In spite of this progress, systemic discrimination against writers from underrepresented groups remains pervasive in the entertainment industry.”
In each of the last four TV seasons, both groups increased their share of TV writing jobs, gaining 2% in the 2017-18 season, 3% in the 2018-19 season, and 5% in the 2019-20 season. But the report cautioned: “While both women and people of color made overall gains in the 2019-2020 TV season, these writers remain concentrated at the middle and lower levels with white men continuing to hold most of the high level positions.”
Some of the highlights:
Despite making up 29% of the total U.S. population and roughly 22% of the U.S. labor force, 4 people over 55 accounted for only 18% of screenwriters employed in 2019 and just 12% of T.V. writers employed in the 2019-2020 T.V. season.
Ageism in T.V. increases at the middle and lower levels. Of writers at the level of Supervising Producer or below in the 2019-2020 season, just 1% were over 55.
Screenwriters by Gender and Ethnicity
Of more than 2,000 screenwriters employed in 2019, only 27% were women and just 20% were people of color. A breakdown by ethnicity and gender reveals that women of color accounted for only 7% of employed screenwriters last year.
When the data is broken down by major ethnicities, other disparities become evident, with Latinx, Black, and Asian-American Pacific Islander screenwriters having less representation relative to their share of the overall U.S. population – and Native/Indigenous and Middle Eastern screenwriters having almost no representation at all.
Underrepresented Writers in Positions of Power
The report highlights the importance of not only hiring writers from underrepresented groups but placing them into positions of power, including as showrunners: Writers from underrepresented groups received 24% more script credits from underrepresented showrunners than from their white male counterparts, the report found.
In the 2019-2020 TV season, women held 44% of TV writing jobs, yet only received 39% of the episodic credits, while people of color held 35% of TV writing jobs, but received only 31% of the episodic credits.
The WGA found that during this season, 70% of showrunners were male and 82% were white. While women and minorities have made 6% gains over the last two years, the WGA says it’s still far below the representation in the general population (which is 51% female and 40% minorities).
Screenwriter Inclusion by Studio
According to the Guild, the root of the disparities are the acquisition and hiring decisions made by producers and executives at the studios. The following charts break down the hiring of women and people of color in screen by major studio for 2019.
While screenwriters from underrepresented groups have made progress over the last five years, they continue to face significant obstacles in obtaining employment and building their careers, the report concludes. The guild urges producers, networks and studios to use this data to better
inform their hiring and buying practices in an effort to improve inclusion
See the whole report here.