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Report Finds Race, Gender Gap Among Writers - Broadcasting & Cable

Report Finds Race, Gender Gap Among Writers

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Television writers are still predominantly male and Caucasian, according to a new report released by the Writers Guild of America West.

According to the report, only 27% of television employment in 2004 was female, while all minorities combined made up just 10% of TV writers. The report notes that women represent more than 50% of the U.S. population and minorities make up 30%.

The gap between the median television earnings between white males and all females was nearly $12,000 in television. The groups were almost even in 1998, the last time the organization conducted a similar study. The difference between white males and all minorities was nearly $18,000 in 2004 (it was about $8,500 in 1998).

“Not only have recent employment gains for minority television writers failed to keep up with an America that is becoming increasingly diverse, these marginal gains primarily have been the product of employment on minority-themed situation comedies,” writes the report’s author, Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American studies and a professor of sociology at UCLA. “When these shows disappeared from the schedule in the past, so did employment opportunities for minority writers.”

The report does note that during the 2004-2005 season, several shows did feature writing staffs that were more than half female, including Lifetime’s Strong Medicine (64%), UPN’s Eve (62%), and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (56%).

It also states that while the minority share of TV writers increased by about three percentage points since 1998, “Much of these employment gains can be attributed to the rise of minority-themed programming on television over the period, particularly in African-American-themed situation comedies like those appearing on Viacom’s UPN.”

The report goes on to outline that last TV season, seven of the top 10 shows for African-American writers aired on UPN, including each of the top five shows.

In an attached letter, new WGA West president Patric Verrone points out that the study only includes WGA West-covered writing, which omits genres such as reality TV.

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