From the rise of streaming and huge blockbuster franchises to the onset of the pandemic, a lot has changed for screenwriters since 2010. And, happily, some solid progress in inclusion and diversity has been made. The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) has released the Inclusion & Equity Report 2022, which concludes that women and BIPOC scribes have made strides in screen and television writing since 2010.
While taking COVID and shifting trends in entertainment into account, the report analyzes the demographics of working TV and screenwriters from recent years and compares the numbers to those of 2010. Women represented 17.2 percent of screenwriters in 2010, a figure that rose to 29.6 percent by 2020. BIPOC writers saw an even larger jump: they comprised 5.2 percent of screenwriters in 2010 but 22.6 percent in 2020.
On the TV side, the number of women writers has increased from 29.3 percent in 2010 to 45.3 percent in 2020. BIPOC scribes accounted for 13.6 percent of TV writers in 2010, a figure that more than doubled to 37 percent in 2020.
However, not all the news is as encouraging. Overall, the decade has seen meaningful improvement in the hiring of women and people of color. But looking at the stats from 2019 to 2020, you see smaller gains, plateaus, and even a few losses.
Women made up 26.5 percent of screenwriters in 2019, growing to 29.6 percent the following year. For BIPOC screenwriters, those respective numbers were 20.2 percent and 22.6 percent. Breaking the numbers down further, the number of BIPOC women screenwriters rose from 7.2 percent in 2019 to 9.6 percent in 2020. However, BIPOC men plateaued at 13 percent.
“A significant development in the 2020 season – which impacted all TV series writers – was a 24% decline in total jobs on television series from the prior year,” the report notes. “The pandemic had a significant impact on production, and as a result 49 fewer series were released than the prior year.”
This decrease in production, and in turn hiring, may partially explain the low levels of growth for women and BIPOC TV writers since 2019. The number of women scribes increased from 43.5 percent in 2019 to 45.3 percent the following year. For BIPOC writers, the numbers were 35.3 percent in 2019 and 37 percent in 2020. BIPOC women made similar small gains: they represented 19.1 percent of TV writers in 2019 and 21.4 percent in 2020. BIPOC men saw a loss of .6 percent, from 15.9 percent in 2019 to 15.3 percent in 2020.
“Our guild is getting more diverse,” WGAW president Meredith Stiehm, vice president Michele Mulroney, and secretary-treasurer Betsy Thomas told members, per Deadline. But they also pointed out that, “while women and BIPOC writers have made significant hiring progress over the last decade, men, and white men in particular, remain predominant.”
Boy, do they. As of 2020, men represented 54.6 percent of TV writers, 64.8 percent of development/pilot writers, and 70.4 percent of screenwriters. Sixty-three percent of TV writers, 76.7 percent of development/pilot writers, and 77.4 percent of screenwriters were white. For BIPOC women, those respective figures were 21.4 percent, 9.9 percent, and 9.6 percent; for BIPOC men, 15.3 percent, 13.2 percent, and 13 percent.
There is clearly forward momentum for women and BIPOC writers, in spite of the pandemic, but it’s equally obvious that the profession is still largely dominated by white dudes. As is the case concerning so many of the studies we cover, things are changing for the better but we still have a lot of work to do.
Read WGAW’s Inclusion & Equity Report 2022 in full here.