BOXED IN: EMPLOYMENT OF BEHIND-THE-SCENES AND ON-SCREEN WOMEN IN 2012-13 PRIME-TIME TELEVISION


Boxed In: Employment of Behind-the-Scenes and On-Screen Women in 2012-13 Prime-time Television 

by Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D.

Reprinted from Women In Film WIF.org Copyright © 2013– All rights reserved.

For the last 16 years, this study has tracked women’s behind-the-scenes employment on prime-time television programs airing on the broadcast networks. Every few years, the study has also monitored the on-screen representation of female characters. This year the sample has been expanded to include original programming on basic cable channels (A&E, AMC, FX, History, TNT, USA), pay cable channels (HBO, Showtime), and Netflix programs.

The findings of the study are divided into two major sections. The first section reports the behind-the-scenes and on-screen findings for the broadcast networks, offering historical comparisons from 2012-13 with figures dating from 1997-98. The second section reports the behind-the-scenes and on-screen findings for the total sample of programs airing on the broadcast networks, cable, and Netflix.

The study examined one randomly selected episode of every series. Random selection is a frequently used and widely accepted method of sampling programs from the universe of television programming.

Findings for Broadcast Networks 

•During 2012-13, women continued their slow but incremental growth in key behind-the-scenes roles. Women comprised 28% of all individuals working as creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography. This represents an increase of two percentage points from 2011-2012 and an increase of 7 percentage points since 1997-98  This is a recent historical high.

Overall, women fared best as producers (38%), followed by writers (34%), executive producers (27%), creators (24%), editors (16%), directors (12%),

and directors of photography (3%) (see Figure 2).

Women comprised 24% of creators. This represents a decrease of 2 percentage points from 2011-12 but an increase of 6 percentage points from 1997-98.

Women accounted for 27% of executive producers. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from  2011-12 and an increase of 8 percentage points since 1997-98.

Women comprised 38% of producers. This is even with women’s representation as producers in 2011-12, and represents an increase of 9 percentage points since 1997-98.

Women accounted for 34% of writers. This represents an increase of 4 percentage points from 2011-12 and an increase of 14 percentage points since 1997-98.

Women comprised 12% of directors. This represents an increase of 1 percentage point from 2011-12, and 4 percentage points since 1997-98.

Women accounted for 16% of editors. This represents an increase of 3 percentage points from 2011-12, and an increase of 1 percentage point since 1997-98.

Women comprised 3% of directors of photography. This represents a decrease of 1 percentage point from 2011-12 and an increase of 3 percentage points since 1997-98. Boxed In • 2012-13 3

•43% of all speaking characters and 43% of major characters were female in 2012-13. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 2010-11, and is even with the historical high set in 2007-08 (see Figure 3).

•Programs airing on the CW featured the highest percentage of female characters (51%), followed by Fox and ABC (44%), NBC (41%), and CBS (39%). The CW was the only network featuring female characters in accurate numerical proportion to their representation in the U.S. population.

•Reality programs were more likely to feature female characters than programs in other genres. Females comprised 48% of characters on reality programs, 43% of characters on situation comedies, and 40% of characters on dramas.

•Female characters tended to be younger than their male counterparts. 30% of female characters but only 19% of male characters were in their 20s. 22% of male characters but only 14% of female characters were in their 40s.

•78% of female characters were white, 12% were African-American, 5% were Latina, 3% were Asian, and 2% were of some other race or ethnicity.

•Viewers were less likely to know the occupational status of female characters than male characters. 37% of female characters but only 30% of male characters had an unknown occupational status.

•Viewers were more likely to know the marital status of female characters than male characters. 47% of male characters but only 38% of female characters had an unknown marital status.

•When programs had no women writers, females accounted for 40% of all characters. When programs had at least one woman writer, females comprised 43% of all characters.

•When programs had no women creators, females accounted for 41% of all characters. When programs had at least one woman creator, females comprised 47% of all characters. Boxed In • 2012-13 4

Findings for Broadcast Networks, Cable & Neflix Programs 

•Women comprised 26% of individuals in key behind-the-scenes roles on programs airing on the broadcast networks and cable channels, and available through Netflix in 2012-2013.

•Women fared best as producers (38%), followed by writers (30%), executive producers (24%), creators (23%), editors (16%), directors (11%), and directors of photography (2%) (see Figure 4).

•Female accounted for 42% of all speaking characters and 41% of major characters.

•Female characters were most likely to appear on reality programs. Females comprised 44% of all characters on reality programs, 42% on situation comedies, and 40% on dramas.

•79% of female characters were white, 12% were African American, 5% were Latina, 2% were Asian, and 2% were of some other race or ethnicity.

•The majority of female characters (62%) were in their 20s and 30s. The majority of male characters (58%) were in their 30s and 40s. The percentage of female characters dropped precipitously from their 30s to their 40s. 34% of female characters were in their 30s but only 16% of female characters were in their 40s.

•Male characters were much more likely than female characters to be seen at work. Of those characters seen at work, 39% were female and 61% were male.

•Male characters were much more likely than female characters to be seen working. Of those characters actually seen engaging in work, 37% were female and 63% were male.

 

Report compiled by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Executive Director, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA (619) 594-6301

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