Study: Latina Speaking Characters on TV Reach Historic High — of 7 Percent

Adam Rose/Netflix
Netflix's 'One Day at a Time,' one of the few places you can hear Latinas talk on TV

The new Boxed In report from San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reveals minor declines across the board.

The percentages of women on screen and behind the scenes in television dipped slightly in 2017-18, according to the 21st annual Boxed In report from San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Women have consistently hovered around 40 percent of both speaking and major characters across all platforms, although last season they reached a "high" of 42 percent. As creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers, they have struggled to break beyond representing roughly a quarter of all key behind-the-scenes jobs, declining from 28 to 27 percent in the latest TV season.

One of the rare "gains" in this year's report is the percentage of Latina speaking characters, who leaped from 5 percent to a historic high of 7 percent. But that share is out of all female characters only, which means that they represented 2.8 percent of the 4,833 humans who talked across the near-500 dramas, comedies and reality shows on broadcast, cable and streaming networks between September 2017 and May 2018.

In the real world, one in five American woman is Latina, according to a 2015 report from The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. No other ethnic group experiences a greater disparity between its real-life population and onscreen representation, said the SDSU study.

As with last year's report, the 2018 Boxed In report drew a correlation between creator gender and representation of women behind and in front of the camera. For example, shows created by at least one woman had writers rooms that were 45 percent female, as opposed to 16 percent on male-created shows. The former also tended to hire more women as directors, 27 versus 13 percent, and featured more women as major characters, 47 versus 38 percent.

"The findings indicate that strategies aimed at increasing the numbers of women creators and executive producers would help make subconscious bias work for women rather than against them," said Martha Lauzen, executive director of SDSU's Center, in a statement. "These individuals hold the keys to viewers seeing more female characters on screen and more women working in other important behind-the-scenes craft areas including writing, directing and editing."