Study: Women still have fewer roles on TV

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Pa­trick Ryan

A new study paints a dis­cour­ag­ing pic­ture for women on tele­vi­sion.

In the 2015-16 TV sea­son, 79% of se­ries had more male than fe­male char­ac­ters, ac­cord­ing to

Boxed In, an an­nual re­port by San Diego State Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for the Study of Women in Tele­vi­sion and Film. Five per­cent fea­tured casts with an equal num­ber of men and women, while a mere 16% had en­sem­bles with more fe­male char­ac­ters than male.

Over­all, the num­ber of fe­male char­ac­ters on broad­cast net­work shows was down slightly from a year ago (41% in 2015-16, com­pared with 42% in 2014-15).

The num­ber of women was even lower else­where, com­pris­ing only 33% of all char­ac­ters on cable and 38% on stream­ing (down from 40% for both a year ago).

Across plat­forms, women made up just 39% of all speak­ing roles.

The na­ture of the char­ac­ters they played is wor­ri­some, too, the study’s au­thors say. Nine per­cent of male char­ac­ters were por­trayed as lead­ers, while only 5% of fe­male char­ac­ters were.

Women were also more fre­quently younger than their male coun­ter­parts, more of­ten iden­ti­fied by their mar­tial sta­tus and less likely to be seen at work.

And there was an even greater di­vide be­hind the cam­era. In the last year, 26% of cre­ators, di­rec­tors, writ­ers, pro­duc­ers, ed­i­tors and di­rec­tors of pho­tog­ra­phy on broad­cast net­work, cable and stream­ing se­ries were women, a fig­ure that’s un­changed from the 2006-07 TV sea­son.

Ninety-one per­cent of shows across plat­forms em­ployed no fe­male di­rec­tors, 76% had no fe­male cre­ators and 71% no fe­male writ­ers. Se­ries with at least one fe­male cre­ator tended to have more speak­ing roles for women (45%, com­pared with just 36% on shows ex­clu­sively cre­ated by men).

There were some mi­nor strides in racial and eth­nic di­ver­sity. The num­ber of black fe­male char­ac­ters climbed to a record 17% (up 2 per­cent­age points from the year be­fore). Latina char­ac­ters rose from 3% to 5% of the to­tal, while Asian women also com­prised 5% of all char­ac­ters (up from 4%). Although 71% of all fe­male char­ac­ters on broad­cast net­works are white, that’s still more di­verse than cable and stream­ing shows. Now in its 19th year, the Boxed In re­port ex­am­ines a ran­domly se­lected episode of each show on broad­cast and cable net­works and stream­ing ser­vices. Be­tween Septem­ber 2015 and May 2016, the study tracked just over 3,500 char­ac­ters and nearly 3,600 be­hind-the-scenes cred­its.


Vi­ola Davis is the first African-Amer­i­can woman to win the Emmy Award for ABC’s How to Get Away With Mur­der.

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