Women Writers and TV: Hitting Hollywood’s Glass Ceiling


In the 21st century women are successful in nearly every line of work, right? That’s what we thought until we saw Deadline Hollywood’s post that named the 2009-10 television season the Worst Network Pilot Season for Women. After doing some research, we began to understand what they meant. Hollywood is basically a big He-Man Woman Haters Club — and it’s even worse for women in film.

According to the 2009 Hollywood Writers Report prepared by The Writers Guild of America (WGA), “White males continue to dominate in both the film and television sectors. Women remain stuck at 28 percent of television employment and 18 percent of film employment.” These statistics are almost identical to the WGA report from 2005. Also of note: The women who do land gigs get paid less.

With those numbers in mind, the discovery that 15 pilots out of 46 ordered by broadcast television companies (ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC) for the 2009-10 season were created, written, or co-written by women almost seemed like a cause for celebration. Mind you, out of those only eight premiered for a nationwide audience (ABC’s Eastwick and The Middle, CBS’s The Good Wife, Accidentally On Purpose, and Three Rivers, NBC’s Mercy, and The CW’s Life Unexpected and The Vampire Diaries) and two have already been canceled (ABC’s Eastwick and CBS’s Three Rivers).

During the 2007 writer’s strike, USA Today published an article about the lack of female writers at the picket lines. Their findings: women aren’t perceived as funny or competitive, and the dearth of women in Hollywood’s managerial positions has created a lack of respect for the female voice in writers rooms. So it’s their own fault they’re getting screwed. Nice.

Luckily, it’s not all bad news. Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, CSI: Miami, and CSI: NY, Bones, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and Showtime’s The United States of Tara were all created by and are primarily written by women, and pull decent ratings. And yet things don’t look much better for female writers next year. Out of around 40 pilots already ordered for 2010-11, only six are created by or written by women.

We say it’s no wonder that Liz Lemon has to drown her sorrows in sandwiches. What say you?