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SDSU Study Finds On-Screen, Behind-the-Scenes TV Jobs at Record Highs for Women

Share This Article:A woman filmmaker. Courtesy SDSU Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

More women worked in front of and behind the cameras across all television platforms in 2018 and 2019 than at any time in the last two decades, according to the latest “Boxed In” report released Wednesday by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

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The 22nd annual report found that female characters comprised 45% of speaking roles in comedy, drama and reality TV programs on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms, a 5% increase over the same metric in the 2017-2018 report.

In addition, women made up 31% of creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and directors of photography on TV shows studied, up from the previous high of 28% in the 2016-2017 report. Women made up 26% of directors, specifically, a record high up from 17% in 2017-2018.

However, 96% of shows had no women directors of photography and more than three-quarters lacked a woman director, women editors or women co- creators. In addition, 52% of shows has five or fewer women in behind-the- scenes roles while 17% had five or fewer men.

“Employing women in these roles boosts women’s representation in other behind-the-scenes roles, and the numbers of female characters on screen,” said Martha Lauzen,  executive director of the CSWTF. “For example, on programs with at least one woman creator, women accounted for 65% of writers versus 19% on programs with no women creators.”

White women made up the vast majority of female characters at 70%, up from 67% in last year’s report. Black women sat at 17%, Asian women at 7% and Latinas at 6%. Only Asian female characters showed gains of any kind year-over- year, increasing 1%.

The report also found that female characters are largely younger than their male counterparts and male characters are more likely to be shown working and have an identifiable job.

“It is heartening to see moderate but widespread gains for female characters and women working behind the scenes this year, but we need to consider the numbers within the larger context of women’s employment in television,” Lauzen said.

The report focused on one randomly selected episode for all shows on broadcast networks like ABC, NBC and CBS, cable channels like TNT and HBO and streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix.

Over Boxed In’s 22 years of publication, the CSWTF has analyzed more than 43,000 characters and more than 55,000 credited crew members.

–City News Service

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