Discrimination Against Minority TV Writers "Remains Pervasive," WGA West Study Says

Hollywood and Highland March 20 2020

"Women and people of color could achieve parity in TV employment within the next two years," the guild's inclusion report also reported, as gains in employment and screen credits are made.

The Writers Guild of America West reported "steady gains" for minority screenwriters in recent years, but warned Hollywood still has far to go before women and people of color can achieve parity and inclusion in the hiring of film and TV writers.

"In spite of this progress, systemic discrimination against writers from underrepresented groups remains pervasive in the entertainment industry," the WGAW said in its latest Inclusion Report, released Friday. The findings spotlight Hollywood's modest industry hiring gains for women and minority writers since 2016 when the #OscarsSoWhite movement compelled the major studios to rework their creative ranks to better reflect the industry's global audience.

The WGAW's latest study of industry hiring and screen credits revealed women accounted for 44 percent of the 2,717 TV writing jobs made available during the 2019-20 TV season across all network, cable and streaming platforms, even though women represent 51 percent of the U.S. population.

And people of color nabbed 35 percent of the writing jobs during last year's TV season, while accounting for 40 percent of the U.S. population. On the TV side, the WGA said women and people of color saw their combined share of writing jobs rise by 5 percent in the 2019-20 season to 35 percent of hiring.

And during the 2019-20 TV season, women held 30 percent of showrunner positions, while 18 percent were held by people of color. "Both women and people of color have increased their representation among TV showrunners by 6 percent over the last two years," the WGAW report found.

The inclusion survey included first-time data for movie production, which lags behind the TV business in the hiring of writers from underrepresented groups. On the film front, the WGAW found women gained 4 percent of writing jobs to get to 27 percent of all hiring in the last year, and people of color gained 2 percent of hires during the same period to get to 20 percent of recent writer jobs.

"If these trends continue, women and people of color could achieve parity in TV employment within the next two years. At present, however, both groups remain underrepresented relative to their share of the overall U.S. population," the inclusion and equity report stated.

And while Latinx, Black and Asian-American screenwriters are still underrepresented relative to their share of the U.S. population, the inclusion report found native/indigenous and Middle Eastern screenwriters still have "almost no representation at all."

The WGAW report said the ability of film and TV writers to secure work from studio executives and indie producers is crucial to their future success, as screen credits largely determine status in Hollywood. "In 2019, women and people of color both received 19 percent of screen credits compared to 81 percent each for men and white writers," the industry report found.

By studio ranking, the WGAW report found MGM led after it hired 22 women screenwriters in 2019, or 34 percent of writer jobs available for four features. That was followed by Walt Disney Studios hiring 118 women writers for 19 features, or 32 percent of all writer hires, while Lionsgate Films hired 21 women writers for 15 features, or 29 percent of its writer hires.

And people of color accounted for 27 percent of all screenwriter hires by Universal Pictures for its 14 features, followed by WarnerMedia tapping members of minority communities for 24 percent of its writer jobs, and Lionsgate Films making 22 percent of its writer hires for people of color.

"While it will take work from individuals and companies across our industry to change the status quo, credit for the progress that has been made belongs, first and foremost, to the writers from underrepresented groups who work not only to write excellent scripts and tell great stories, but also to open doors for themselves and the writers who will come after them," the report concluded.