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Women Making Strides on TV, New Report Finds

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University finds gains both behind the camera and onscreen.

Nashville Hayden Connie Episodic - H 2013
ABC
ABC's "Nashville"

Women in television -- both behind the camera and onscreen -- are reaching new and historic highs, a report from San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film has found.

In its annual "Boxed In" report, tracking behind-the-scenes and onscreen representation on primetime, the study found that during the 2012-13 broadcast season, women continued their slow but incremental growth in key offscreen categories. Women comprised 28 percent of all individuals working as creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and directors of photography, representing an increase of 2 percentage points from the 2011-12 study and up 7 percentage points since 1997-98 -- a recent historic high.

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Women comprised 24 percent of series creators, down 2 percentage points year-over-year but up 6 percentage points from 1997-98, the study found. Among executive producers, women accounted for 27 percent (up 2 percentage points year-over-year and 8 percentage points since 1997-98; producers 28 percent (even and up 9, respectively); writers 34 percent (up 4 and 14); directors 12 percent (up 1 and 4); editors 16 percent (up 3 and 1); and directors of photography (down 1 and up 3).

When factoring in premium and basic cable networks (A&E, AMC, FX, History, TNT, USA, HBO, Showtime) and Netflix, women comprised 26 percent of individuals behind the scenes, with 42 percent of all major speaking characters being women and 41 percent of all major characters. The majority of female characters -- 62 percent -- were in their 20s and 30s, while the majority of male characters (58 percent) were in their 30s and 40s.

Onscreen, 43 percent of all speaking characters and 43 percent of all major characters were female during the 2012-13 season, up 2 percentage points year-over-year and even with the historic high set in 2007-08. The CW featured the highest percentage of female characters with 51 percent, followed by Fox and ABC (44 percent), NBC (41) and CBS (39). The CW was the only network to feature female characters in proportion to their representation in the U.S. population.

Reality programs were also more likely to feature women than other genres, comprising 48 percent of characters, followed by sitcoms (43 percent) and dramas (40 percent).

The "Boxed In" study has tracked women's employment on TV for the past 16 years. This year the sample was expanded to include original programming on basic and premium cable. The study examined one randomly selected episode of every series. The complete "Boxed In" report will be released on Thursday.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit