Report on Equity in TV Writing Pinpoints Racial Gap Among Showrunners

The study also found that 70% of marginalized writers who have developed a series in the past five years did so without pay

Getty Images

While the television industry has made efforts in recent years to develop more inclusive content, the latest study from the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity paints a picture behind the scenes of an industry still in need of progress.

On Tuesday, the TTIE released its annual “Behind the Scenes: The State of Inclusion & Equity in TV Writing” report, in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The study surveyed more than 875 working TV writers.

The report divulged several conclusions about equity in television, including that 70% of marginalized writers who have developed a series in the past five years did so without pay — compared to 53% of non-marginalized writers.

Of those who managed to get their development project off the ground, only 67% of upper-level BIPOC writers who do have management experience were asked to showrun. Meanwhile, about 81% of upper-level white writers with no prior management experience were contracted to showrun their projects.

The TTIE’s study also questioned showrunners about the depth of their training, especially when it came to diversity and inclusion best practices. About 48% of respondents said they would like help learning about those best practices.

Of the showrunner respondents, 76% said that they had not had any management training prior to or during their time running a show.

“We’re excited to see an industry shift in the right direction,” said TTIE’s co-founder and co-chair Y. Shireen Razack. “The work ahead is making sure EDI initiatives and pledges lead to true culture change and improved storytelling. We invite our colleagues to use TTIE’s findings and recommendations as a guide.”

Some of TTIE’s recommendations included greenlighting more projects from marginalized writers and committing to paying them for their work, as well as empowering marginalized writers who do have management experience to take on more upper-level roles.

The organization also suggested a “widely accessible training program” for showrunners and co-executive producers that includes both traditional management skills and guidance on running diverse and inclusive writers rooms.