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Study Finds Women’s Progress in Television Stalling

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According to a new report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, progress for women in television has stalled in recent years.

Last year, prime-time television programs with at least one woman executive producer or creator featured more female characters, and employed substantially greater percentages of women as directors, writers and editors than programs with exclusively male executive producers or creators, according to the latest Boxed In report released by Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

According to Lauzen, “The findings suggest that creators and executive producers play an instrumental role in shifting the gender dynamics for both on-screen characters and other individuals working in powerful behind-the-scenes roles.” For example, on broadcast programs with at least one female creator, women comprised 50 percent of writers. On programs with no female creators, women comprised 15 percent of writers.

In 2014-15, females accounted for 42 percent of all speaking characters and 27 percent of creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography working on prime-time programs airing on the broadcast networks. When compared with figures from recent years, these percentages reveal that women’s forward progress in television has stalled. “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,” said Lauzen. “We are no longer experiencing the incremental growth we saw in the late 1990s and 2000s.”

In addition to reporting figures for dramas, situation comedies, and reality programs airing on the broadcast networks, the study also includes figures for an expanded sample including programs appearing on basic and pay cable (A&E, AMC, FX, History, TNT, USA, HBO, Showtime), as well as Netflix.

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