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More women working behind the scenes in broadcast TV, study says

The percentage of female speaking roles and major characters on-screen tied a record set in 2007-08, the report says.

September 05, 2013|By Lee Margulies
  • Writer, director and actress Lena Dunham.
Writer, director and actress Lena Dunham. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

After losing ground as recently as two years ago, the number of women working in key behind-the-scenes jobs on prime-time broadcast network programs reached what is thought to be record highs in the 2012-13 season, a new study reports.

"Women comprised 28% of all individuals working as creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and directors of photography," according to the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

That was two percentage points higher than in 2011-12 and seven higher than in 1997-98, the first full season for which the center began keeping records on women's employment in television.

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Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the center, said that women fared best as producers, making up 38% of that category. Among writers, 34% were women; 12% of directors were female.

The report also measured women's presence on-screen and found that 43% of all speaking characters and 43% of major characters were female — tying the record high from 2007-08. Lauzen said that the CW, with 51% of its characters women, "was the only network featuring female characters in accurate numerical proportion to their representation in the U.S. population."

For the first time, the center also surveyed original programming on basic cable, pay cable and Netflix. When those findings were combined with the broadcast networks, the overall employment figures for women declined slightly — to 26% for key behind-the-scenes jobs and 42% of all speaking characters.

The statistical analysis is based on surveying one randomly selected episode from each network series during the season.


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