tv directors diversity

While Hollywood may still be trailing behind when it comes to gender equality, a new study from the Directors Guild of America has found that the pool of first-time episodic TV directors “is more inclusive than ever.” Both women and minorities have seen major gains in the past few years, and for the second year in a row, have set record highs for diversity in the TV directing industry.

A DGA study has found that 82 female directors accounted for 41% of the first-time hires in the 2017-18 season. That’s a dramatic increase from up from 33% in the prior season and nearly four times higher than the 11% hired in 2009-10, according to Deadline.

Just behind female directors were directors of color, which accounted for 31% of first time hires last year, with 63 total. Compared with 27% the year before, and only 12% in the 2009-10 season, minorities are steadily making their marks in the TV industry. Ethnic minorities have seen the most dramatic increase in the past few years —this year’s data shows that first-time directors of color were hired at twice the rate they were hired in 2014 and 2015 and three times the 2010 rate.

Women of color remain the smallest group, but have made some of the most significant gains, accounting for 13% of the first-timers hired this past season, compared to 9% last season and a meager 2% in 2009-10. The guild calls the numbers “encouraging, but there’s still room for improvement.” DGA president Thomas Schlamme said in a statement:

“The hiring improvements covered in this report show an industry that’s headed in the right direction today, but also one with a long road ahead to keep up with the increasingly diverse world tomorrow.”

While these numbers are encouraging, female and minority directors still have a lot of catching up to do. In November 2017, the DGA reported that women directed only 21% of all episode shows during the 2016-17 season, while ethnic minorities directed 22%. And series-affiliated directors are even less diverse. Women directors and directors of color comprised only 25% of the series-affiliated group, compared with 38% in the career-track group.

And then there’s the practice of “gifting,” in which shows hire cast and crew members (think actors directing episodes of their shows) for first-time directing gigs over outsiders who intend to make a career out if it. Because of that, we see the disparity between first-time directors and series-affiliated directors. While it’s not an uncommon or totally damaging practice, the DGA finds that it “limits first breaks for diverse directors.”

But overall, things are looking bright for diversity in the TV industry. The TV landscape has always been a few steps ahead of the rest of Hollywood when it comes to gender and racial representation, and it seems that below the line, it’s no different. And with more women and people of color behind the camera, that usually translates to more female and minority-led shows, which will mean that the TV show landscape will only get more diverse. Let’s hope that Hollywood can catch up.

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