SDSU Study: TV’s Gender Gap Widens

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Fewer females are working in front of and behind the cameras on television programs this year than in previous years, according to the latest “Boxed In” report released Tuesday by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

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Females comprised 40 percent of all speaking characters on dramas, comedies and reality programs appearing on the broadcast networks, premium and basic cable channels, and on streaming services, according to the study covering 2017-18 — a decline of 2 percentage points from 42 percent in last year’s study.

The current report also found that 68 percent of programs featured casts with more male than female characters; 11 percent had ensembles with equal numbers of female and male characters; and 21 percent featured casts with more female than male characters.

Across all platforms, the percentage of Latina characters in speaking roles reached a historical high in 2017-18, accounting for 7 percent of all female characters — up from 5 percent in 2016-17 — but they remain the most underrepresented ethnic group when compared to their representation in the U.S. population, according to the report. Black characters remained steady at 19 percent of all female characters, and the percentage of Asian females remained unchanged at 6 percent.

Behind the scenes, women accounted for 27 percent of all creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and directors of photography, a decline of 1 percentage point from 2016-17. Overall, programs employed behind-the-scenes women in relatively small numbers. For example, 69 percent of programs employed five or fewer women in the roles considered. In contrast, only 13 percent of programs employed five or fewer men.

“We will see these behind-the-scenes employment disparities reflected at the Emmys next Monday night, and ultimately there will be fewer women on stage being celebrated for excellence in their respective craft areas,” said Martha M. Lauzen, a professor at SDSU’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. “It’s a vicious cycle of underemployment which results in less recognition which, in turn, reinforces skewed gender ratios behind the scenes.”

For the last 21 years, “Boxed In” has tracked women’s representation in prime-time television. The project provides a historical record of women’s on-screen portrayals and behind-the-scenes employment. The study examines dramas, comedies and reality programs appearing on the broadcast networks, basic and premium cable channels, and streaming services.

–City News Service

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