Female Representation on TV Inches Toward Parity, Study Finds

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According to the new Boxed In report from San Diego State, women represented 45 percent of television characters and nearly a third of crew behind the scenes.

After hovering in the low 40s for the past several years, the percentage of speaking as well as major characters on TV who are women ticked up to 45 percent in 2018-19, the new Boxed In report from San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film has revealed.

The report also found that women represented 31 percent of those working behind the scenes as creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers, the highest share recorded in the study's 22-year history (the previous high was 28 percent in 2016-17).

"It is heartening to see moderate but widespread gains for female characters and women working behind the scenes this year, but we need to consider the numbers within the larger context of women's employment in television," said executive director Martha Lauzen in a statement, noting that women's share of TV directors rose from 17 to 26 percent this past season. "However, men continue to direct the vast majority of programs. In this context, "historic high" still means that men outnumber women 3 to 1 in this role."

Although a quarter of creators and 30 percent of executive producers were women, 77 percent had no female creators or editors, 79 percent no female directors and 96 percent no female cinematographers. Per usual, programs with women in leadership roles tended to hire more women. "Employing women in these roles boosts women's representation in other behind-the-scenes roles, and the numbers of female characters onscreen," Lauzen added. "For example, on programs with at least one woman creator, women accounted for 65 percent of writers versus 19 percent on programs with no women creators."

The researchers analyzed drama, comedy and reality shows across broadcast networks, basic (A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, Bravo, Discovery, Disney, E!, Freeform, FX, HGTV, History, Nickelodeon, TBS, TLC, TNT and USA) and premium (HBO and Showtime) cablers and streaming services (Amazon, Hulu, Netflix) that aired between September 2018 to this May, tracking more than 5,100 characters and 5,000 behind-the-scenes credits for this year's report. In total, Boxed In has examined more than 43,000 characters and 55,000 behind-the-scenes credits.