Study: Little Improvement in Hiring of Women and Minority TV Directors

Women directed 17 percent of all episodes from the 2015-16 season, while non-Caucasians made up 19 percent of directors.
Mark Davis / Wireimage
'Queen Sugar' hired all female directors, many of whom are also diverse. The show is too recent, however, and was not one of the series analyzed in the DGA's diversity study.

It's only getting marginally better for women and minority directors in television.

According to a new report released Monday by the Directors Guild of America, only 17 percent of all episodes in the last season were directed by women, while 19 percent were helmed by ethnic minorities (male or female) — both numbers marking a 1 percent increase compared to last year.

That means that 83 percent of the time, TV episodes are directed by men and 81 percent of the time, they're helmed by Caucasians. The number of episodes directed by minority females remained static at 3 percent.

 

The annual study conducted by the DGA examines the ethnicity and gender of directors hired to oversee episodic TV series across broadcast, basic cable, premium cable and high-budget original series made for SVOD platforms. A total of 4,000 episodes from 299 scripted broadcast and cable series in the 2015-16 season were analyzed.

Women directed a total of 702 episodes — 85 more episodes than last season. And the number of individual female directors employed in episodic TV grew 23 percent to 183, up from 149 last year. Meanwhile, ethnic minorities helmed 783 episodes — 89 more than the previous season.

It's worth noting that the pie (i.e. total number of episodes produced) continues to grow, but the rate of growth has slowed. There were 4,061 episodes made in the 2015-16 season, a 4 percent increase from the 2014-15 season. In comparison, the total number of episodes rose 10 percent between that season and the previous 2013-14 season.

And although the percentage of episodes directed by Caucasian males decreased to 67 percent (from 69 percent last year) — the actual number of episodes directed by white men went up slightly to 2,717 (from 2,714 the year prior).

The study also ranks the eight largest studios and their subsidiaries based on their employment of women and ethnic minorities. The scorecard shows that CBS, Twentieth Century Fox, NBCUniversal and Disney/ABC held the top four spots. Viacom, which lagged in the hiring of women, and Warner Bros., which fell behind in the hiring of ethnic minority directors, followed. By a significant margin, Sony and HBO came in last.

The study also broke down the data by distribution platform — broadcast, basic cable, premium cable and SVOD — and found that series produced for network TV led the way in hiring women (20 percent) and also ranked high in the hiring of minorities (19 percent). Basic cable ranked the lowest in terms of women directors (14 percent) but the highest in the hiring of minority directors. However, nearly a quarter of those basic cable episodes helmed by ethnic minorities can be attributed to a single person — Tyler Perry.

 

Of the 299 shows examined, 57 of them (19 percent) hired women or minorities to direct fewer than 15 percent of episodes — 30 of which (10 percent) hired no women or minority directors whatsoever. Among the shows that only employed white men as directors: Aquarius, Blunt Talk, The Detour, Dice, Difficult People, Fargo, Into the Badlands, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Longmire, Man Seeking Woman, Marco Polo, Maron, Stranger Things, Vice Principals and Workaholics.

“These numbers shine a light on the lack of real progress by employers in this industry, plain and simple. Of particular concern is the precedent being set by the fastest-growing category, streaming video,” said DGA president Paris Barclay. “There’s a long road ahead for true change to be realized — because for that to happen, the pipeline will need to change at the point of entry. Employers will need to implement new hiring practices — from getting more people in the door and interviewing more diverse candidates, to hiring experienced directors instead of handing these jobs out as perks.”

On the other hand, 73 of the series analyzed (24 percent) demonstrated a commitment to diverse hiring practices by selecting women or minorities to helm at least 40 percent of their episodes. In fact, 100 percent of Being Mary Jane, The Game, Heartbeat and Zoe Ever After's directors were either women or ethnic minorities. Other shows at the top of the DGA's "Best of" list include American Crime, Greenleaf, Transparent, Jane the Virgin, Black-ish and Last Man Standing.

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