Women and minority TV creators, writers, directors and cast members continue to make progress towards greater inclusion, both in front of and behind the camera, according to the latest Hollywood Diversity report from UCLA. “One of the strongest trends over the course of this report series is the steady increase in overall cast diversity,” the report found. Latinos, however, remain woefully underrepresented, and were the “only group to be severely underrepresented” across all three platforms – broadcast, cable and streaming.
Latinos make up almost half the population of Los Angeles, and nearly 19% of the U.S. population, but the report found that during the 2020-21 season, they received only 4.9% of the “top roles” on scripted cable shows, and 5.3% of the top roles on streaming and broadcast shows.
UCLA's Hollywood Diversity Report Documents “Enormous Gains” By Women & People Of Color, But Latinx Representation Still Lags
Even so, the report found that “Overall, women and minorities saw improvements in representation in almost all categories tracked, or held onto previous gains,” and that lead actors of color overall have made “tremendous advances” in recent years.
The report examined 407 scripted broadcast, cable, and streaming television shows from the 2020-21 season that were distributed across six broadcast networks, 25 cable networks and 21 digital platforms. They include 107 scripted broadcast shows, 109 scripted cable shows and 191 scripted streaming shows.
The report also found that while female and minority show creators have also made gains, they tend more often to be relegated to lower-budgeted shows.
“We saw an uptick in opportunity for people of color and women having their shows greenlit, which should be a marker of progress,” said Ana-Christina Ramón, director of the Entertainment and Media Research Initiative at UCLA and one of the co-authors of report. “However, when we examined the episodic budgets of all the TV series, we see a strong pattern indicating that shows created by people of color and women tended to receive smaller budgets than those created by white men, particularly in the digital arena.”
That pattern of budget-related underrepresentation of women and minority show creators was found across broadcast, cable and streaming, which the report refers to as “digital.” Unlike past reports, this year’s considered co-creators and not just the lead creator in order to “recognize diverse creators who were part of a team of creators. Out of the 407 series examined, only 25 series were impacted by this change – nine in broadcast, four in cable, and 12 in digital.
See the full report here.
In broadcast, the report found that white female creators (86.9%) and creators of color (71.4%) were more likely to have smaller budgets under $3 million per episode than white male creators (58.5%). And in cable, white female creators (86.7%) and creators of color (70.8%) were more likely to have smaller budgets under $3 million per episode than white male creators (52%).
“Compared to broadcast and cable, the digital platform provided creators with budgets that were much larger,” the report found. “But creators of color (66.6%) and white female creators (51.4%) were more likely to have smaller budgets under $3 million per episode than white male creators (38.8%). White male creators also benefited the most at the higher end of the budget continuum, particularly with budgets more than $7 million per episode (21%).”
Even so, women and minority creators have made real progress over the past 10 years. On scripted broadcast shows, the percentage of minority creators has more than tripled over the past decade, from only 4.2% in the 2011-12 season to 13.1% in the 2020-21 season. The report notes, however, that “They would have to triple their 2020-21 share yet again to reach proportionate representation in this employment arena.”
Noting that women account for over 50% of the U.S. population, and that people of color now make up 42.7% of the population, the report considers jobs approaching those numbers to be “proportionate” or “nearly proportionate” to the American population.
Lead actors are by far the most diverse job category surveyed, and in some cases are approaching parity, and in others even exceeding it. While finding that “people of color have made tremendous advances among broadcast, cable, and digital leads in recent years,” the report notes that “they have considerable ground to cover before they reach proportionate representation among leads on any of the three platform types.”
“When individual minority groups are considered, Black and multiracial persons exceeded proportionate representation among leads in 2020-21 for cable and digital scripted shows,” the report says. “Meanwhile, women gained ground since the last report across all platforms. They approached parity with their male counterparts in cable and were overrepresented in digital in 2020-21.”
On scripted cable shows, the report found that the percentage of minority show creators “continued to make gains,” increasing from 20.6% during the 2019-20 television season to 26.6% in 2020-21. “Though people of color more than tripled their share of show creators since the 2011-12 season (7.4%), they would have to nearly double their 2020-21 share to reach proportionate representation in this employment arena.”
On scripted streaming shows, the percentage of minority show creators has increased dramatically, rising from 14.7% during the 2019-20 season to 25.6% in 2020-21. “These figures represent the largest year-to-year gain for people of color in this employment arena” over the last 10 years of the study, the report series,” the report says. “Nonetheless, people of color would have to increase their 2020-21 share of digital scripted show creators by about 17 percentage points to reach proportionate representation in this employment arena.”
Women show creators are also on the rise, although they still have a long way to go to reach parity with men. “After a step backwards in the 2019-20 season, women’s share of broadcast scripted show creators increased significantly in 2020-21 to 31.8%,” the report says. “Indeed, the 2020-21 share was the highest for women in this employment arena over the course of the report series. Nevertheless, women would have to increase their 2020-21 share of show creators by more than 19 percentage points to reach parity with men.”
On scripted cable shows, women creators “gained a little ground since the last report,” increasing from 29% of show creators during the 2019-20 season to 31.2% in 2020-21. “Still, women would have to increase their 2019-20 share of cable scripted show creators by almost 20 percentage points to achieve parity with men.”
Women creators of scripted streaming shows, meanwhile, posted their biggest gains over the 10 years surveyed. Ten years ago, women created only 15.6% of the scripted streaming shows, but that percentage has now more than doubled. Their share “increased significantly since the 2019-20 television season,” the report says. “In 2020-21, women accounted for 36.1% of digital scripted show creators, compared to 29.2% in 2019-2020. Though the 2020-21 share was the highest for women in this employment arena over the course of the report series, women would still have to increase their 2020-21 share by about 14 percentage points to reach parity with men.”
Overall, women “remain underrepresented on nearly every front except among cable and digital scripted leads in 2020-21. They got “greater than proportionate representation” among digital scripted leads (58.6%), and “proportionate representation” among cable scripted leads (49.1%).
And people of color are “approaching proportionate representation among cable and digital scripted leads, cable episodes directed, and credited cable writers,” though the report found that “they remained underrepresented on every industry employment front during the 2020-21 television season.”
Despite the gains that women and minorities have made – which the report found in some cases to be “considerable,” “significant” and even “tremendous,” Darnell Hunt, UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, and co-founder of the report, says downward economic trends threaten to undermine those advances.
“Things are slightly ominous in the face of a looming recession,” he said. “Diversity initiatives traditionally are the first to be cut or sacrificed when there are economic downturns. We’re already seeing it start with Warner and HBO cutbacks. But rolling back efforts before equity has been truly achieved for women and people of color would be a major miscalculation. Any cost-savings studios realize now will come at the expense of alienating increasingly diverse viewers who expect increased representation in their TV shows, and do not make good business sense in the long term.”
“The bottom line,” the report says, is that “new evidence from the 2020-21 television season supports findings from earlier reports in this series suggesting that America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse television content.”
Here are some of the report’s other key findings:
- “One of the strongest trends over the course of this report series is the steady increase in overall cast diversity across all three platform types. In 2020-21, people of color collectively reached or exceeded proportionate representation among the main cast (i.e., top eight roles) across all three platform types. But most of these gains for people of color can be attributed to the increasing shares of Black and multiracial persons in top roles.”
- “After decades of erasure, Native persons’ share of top roles rose across all three platform types since the previous season. Indeed, they were at proportionate representation or slightly overrepresented among broadcast top roles for the first time in this report series in 2020-21.”
- “Women remained underrepresented among the top roles in broadcast and cable in 2020-21, although they were close to parity with men. In digital, women increased their share since the last report and actually claimed a slight majority of top roles.”
- People of color accounted for 27.4% of broadcast scripted leads for the 2020-21 television season – more than five times their share ten years ago, which is their highest share over the 10-year course of this survey. “Nonetheless, people of color would have to increase their share of broadcast scripted leads by about 15 percentage points to reach proportionate representation in this important employment arena.”
- On scripted broadcast shows, the White share of top roles declined from 56.6% in 2019-20 to 53.2% in 2020-21. “Black (18.6%) and multiracial (14%) persons were overrepresented in broadcast scripted casts in 2020-21.” Native (2%), actors of Middle East & North Africa descent (1.3%), and Asian (5.5%) persons “either slightly exceeded or were close to meeting their respective population shares. Latinx (5.3%) persons remained severely underrepresented in this employment arena.”
- On cable shows, the White share of roles declined between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, from 59.5% to 54.7%. “Black (24.5%) persons were overrepresented in cable scripted casts in 2020-21, while multiracial (10.8%) and MENA (1.3%) persons reached proportionate representation. Latinx (4.9%), Asian (3.5%), and Native (0.4%) persons remained underrepresented in this employment arena.”
- On streaming shows, the White share of top roles declined further since the last report, from 61.6% in 2019-20 to 56.2% in 2020-21. “Black (19.2%), multiracial (11.6%), and MENA (2.4%) persons were overrepresented in digital scripted casts in 2020-21. Latinx (5.3%), Asian (4.6%), and Native (0.8%) persons remained underrepresented in this employment arena.”
- “Considering scripted shows across all platform types, leads of color were much more likely to appear in shows with high degrees of overall cast diversity in 2020-21. Indeed, 74.5% of leads of color appeared in shows with majority-minority casts, while another 17.7% appeared in shows with casts that were at least 31% minority. None of the shows with casts that were less than 11% minority featured a lead of color in 2020-21, and only 2.1% of the shows with casts that were from 11% to 20% minority did so.”
- On scripted cable shows, “people of color continued to make considerable progress among directors. People of color directed 38% of cable scripted episodes in 2020-21, a substantial increase over their 27.2% share for 2019-20. This 2020-21 figure puts this group just about five percentage points short of reaching proportionate representation in this employment arena.”
- On scripted broadcast shows, people of color “have made modest progress.” Overall, people of color directed 28.8% of broadcast scripted episodes in 2020-21, up from the 25.8% figure they posted a season earlier, and still considerably below proportionate representation.”
- On streaming shows, people of color “continued to advance among directors.” Overall, people of color directed 27.3% of digital scripted episodes in 2020-21, “a considerable increase over the 21.7% figure they posted a season earlier. The group still would have to increase its 2020-21 share of episodes directed by about 15 percentage points to reach proportionate representation in this employment arena.”
- Women of color directed a larger share of the episodes in 2020-21 (9.8%) than in 2019-20 (6.9%), but men of color (19%) directed nearly twice as many episodes.
- “The racial and gender dynamics in a collaborative writers’ room have an enormous impact on the types of stories told,” said Michael Tran, a co-author on the report and a UCLA graduate student studying sociology.
- Credited women writers across all three platforms have achieved “nearly proportionate representation” across all three platforms. In cable, they accounted for 46.8% of the writing credits; in streaming it was 46.4%, and on broadcast, 45.2%.
- In cable, people of color accounted for 38% of credited writers in 2020-21, “a significant increase” over the 28.6% figure posted in 2019-20. To reach proportionate representation, people of color would have to increase their 2020-21 share by nearly five percentage points.
- On streaming shows, people of color accounted for 32.6% of the credited writers in 2020-21, which was up from 24.2% in the previous year. The report concluded that to reach “proportionate representation, people of color would have to increase their 2020-21 share by about 10 percentage points.”
- On scripted broadcast shows, people of color received 30.5% of the writing credits in 2020-21, up from 26.4% the year before. To reach proportionate representation, people of color would have to increase their 2020-21 share by about 12 percentage points.
- On broadcast shows, “women of color enjoyed gains among credited writers…while males of color and White women treaded water. The share of credited women writers of color increased from 13.6% in 2019-20 to 17.8% in 2020-21. For males of color and White women, the changes between the two seasons were minimal in broadcast – from 12.8% to 12.5% and remaining flat at 27.5%, respectively.”
- On scripted cable shows, women constituted 46.8% of credited writers in 2020-21, up about 5 percentage points from the 41.1% a season earlier.
The report did not examine employment by age, sexual orientation or disability. Stressing that they are all part of a diverse workforce, the report notes that they aren’t included in this report because “Currently, there are no independently verifiable and consistently updated databases that track information about these other identities, particularly for disability and LGBTQ status, for those working in key roles in Hollywood. Disability and sexual orientation are not always publicly known or necessarily visible. If data are collected about these particular identities, the data are often collected anonymously and reported at an aggregate level by a company, a guild, or a government agency. For the analyses that structure this report, reliable identity data are required at the individual level, which is why we focus on racial, ethnic, and gender identities.”
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