In order for women to succeed in the television industry, there need to be more women in charge of it.
That's the conclusion reached by the 18th annual "Boxed In" study, which looked at random samplings from each program at 14 different outlets, including broadcast networks, basic and pay cable, and Netflix. What they found is that while the growth rate of female employment has stalled pretty badly, having women in executive producer or showrunner positions does help. It helps a lot, as a matter of fact.
According to the numbers, shows in the 2014-2015 season that had at least one female executive producer attached were far more likely to feature more women -- 43% of characters on these shows were female, compared to 37% of characters on shows that had only male executive producers.
But the biggest difference is in the amount of women working behind the scenes -- for broadcast shows with at least one female exec producer, 32% of writers, 15% of directors, and 25% of editors were female. Compare that to broadcast shows without any female exec producers, which only featured 6% female writers, 9% female directors, and 13% female editors.
Despite this, and despite a 2% increase in female executive producers from the 2013-2014 season, numbers are still pretty terrible for women working in television. Of the programs surveyed, only 25% of writers and 12% of directors overall were female -- both dropped 1% since last year. The number of female editors rose 4%, and the number of female DPs remains unchanged at a dismal 1%.
“There is a perception gap between how people think women are faring in television, both on screen and behind the scenes, and their actual employment," Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, said in a statement. “We are no longer experiencing the incremental growth we saw in the late 1990s and 2000s.”
Of course, things aren't automatically better for everyone under female leadership, as depictions of women still skew pretty, white and younger no matter who's running the show -- 78% of female characters across all shows are white, and 60% were depicted in their 20s and 30s (compare that to the majority male characters, who are usually depicted in their 30s and 40s).
It's clear that television has a long way to go before it's a more equitable playing field for all forms of diversity, both on and off screen -- but having a wider, more diverse crop of executives would certainly bridge the gap.