23 NOV 2023

The gender gap for female directors and writers has increased over the past six years

Creative Diversity Network has published a new analysis of six years on how well writers, directors and producer-directors are represented in the UK television industry.

23 NOV 2023

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Despite the longstanding recognition of the significant underrepresentation of women in these roles, and the creation of industry initiatives to address it, the gender gap for female directors and writers has actually increased over the past six years, and those women who are working in these roles are more likely to be contributing to non-peak programmes, according to a new report from the Creative Diversity Network (CDN).

The report also highlights that where there are pockets of progress, for example the increased number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, and disabled writers and directors working in UK television, their ability to make the same number of contributions to programmes is more limited than their white, non-disabled peers.

“Over the years we have seen broadcasters, streamers, production companies and industry bodies launching a series of initiatives aimed at diversifying writers and directors. But our analysis of six years of Diamond data makes it clear that these efforts are yet to be operating at the necessary scale, or they have simply failed to achieve the intended impact,”  said Deborah Williams, CEO of Creative Diversity Network.

“It is very disheartening to see the number of women in these roles actually decrease over this period, and other groups are not being given opportunities to actually make shows, at the bigger-budget, peak time end of the scale. We need to see a shift from piecemeal and programme-level initiatives to more transformational change, which are accountable and transparent,”  Williams added.

The report, entitled “Writers, Directors and Producer Directors: A six-year overview of Diamond data 2016/17 to 2021/22,” provides an analysis of six years on how well writers, directors and producer-directors are represented in the UK television industry.


▸  Gender:

· While women are well represented in the TV industry overall, they are far less likely to occupy the key senior creative and authorial roles of director than their male counterparts, making just 25.3% (director) and 32.4% (writer) of contributions to programmes broadcast in 2021/22. These figures have declined over the past six years from 26.9% (directors) and 42.8% (writers) in 2016/17.

· In 2020/21, there was a significant drop in the proportion of female writers working in the industry down to 36.6% from 39.6% in 2019/20, perhaps a consequence of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, which are likely to have disproportionately impacted women, and particularly those occupying more senior roles who are likely to be older and therefore more likely to have caring responsibilities.

· Female writers, directors and producer directors are also much less likely than their male counterparts to be employed on peak-time programmes (35.8% female writers, 32.1% female directors) than on non-peak time programmes (43.6% writers, 35.8% directors).

· Female writers are particularly under-represented (30.2%) in Comedy programmes, and female directors are particularly under-represented in Children’s (26.2%) and Entertainment (21.2%) programmes.

· One in three of all directors (33.3%) identified as female, however the proportion of director contributions they make is even lower at 25.3%, suggesting that they are under-utilised even where employed. This compares with their male counterparts, with 66% of male directors making a much higher 76% of contributions.

· The number of female writers employed by each broadcaster does not always reflect the actual number of contributions they make to content for that broadcaster. For example, ViacomCBS (now Paramount) had the largest percentage of female writers in 2020/21 (47.5%), but they were responsible for the smallest proportion of contributions (22.4%). By contrast, on Channel 4 programmes, 39.5% of writers were female, but they were responsible for the highest percentage of writing contributions across any broadcaster (58.6%).

· The percentage of actual contributions made by female directors was lower than the percentage of women employed, across all broadcasters.

▸  Disability:

· While there has been a steady increase in the proportion of disabled writers and directors employed in recent years (to 9.9% and 7.3% respectively in 2021/22), disabled people made only 7.6% of writers’ contributions in 2021/22 and 4.6% of directors’ contributions. These rates are very low considering that disabled people make up 17% of the UK workforce.

· Disabled people are least well represented in the role of producer director, where in contrast to writers and directors, there is no sign of any increase in representation. In 2021/22 disabled people made just 4.1% of all producer director contributions.

▸  Age:

· Contributions made by directors and writers aged over 50 have dropped over the last six years. Although nearly one in three (31%) of the UK workforce is aged 50 or over, just 25.3% of director contributions were from older people, down from 26.9% in 2016/17. 21.4% of writing contributions were made by people over 50 in 2021/22, down from 42.8% in 2016/17.

▸  Race and Ethnicity:

· In 2021/22, 13.4% of directors identified as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic – an increase from 10.8% in 2016/17. But the programme contributions made by these directors remains stubbornly low – 9.5% in 2021/22 – and below 10% in each of the last six years. So while the rate of employment has increased, these directors are contributing to relatively few programmes compared to their white counterparts, whose number of contributions (90.5%) is higher than their employment numbers (86.6%).

· The proportion of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic writers increased to a high of 15.6% in 2020/21, possibly as a result of broadcasters’ efforts to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the proportion has since fallen to 14% in 2021/22. Despite these increases in employment rates, contributions by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic writers have remained considerably lower (8.7%), which again contrasts with white counterparts, whose contributions are higher than their employment figures.

▸  Sexual orientation

· Compared to UK population estimates (6.4%), there is strong representation in the roles of writer and director by people who identify as LGB. However, writer (23.9%) and director (24.4%) contributions by gay men dominate, with many times more contributions than lesbians (0.9% writers, 3.4% directors) and bisexuals (6.2% writers, 2.2% directors).