LOS ANGELES -- The number of women working as writers and directors on prime-time programs took a big tumble in the 2010-11 season, a new study reports -- part of an overall decline in women's employment as actresses and in creative jobs behind the camera.
Women made up 15 percent of writers on the prime-time dramas, comedies and reality shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW, down from 29 percent in the 2009-10 season, according to the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. In the directing ranks, it found that 11 percent were women compared with 16 percent the previous year.
The center said that women accounted for 41 percent of all on-air characters, down from the record-high 43 percent the year before, and made up 25 percent of the people working as series creators, producers, executive producers, directors, writers, editors and directors of photography, a decrease of 2 percent.
The study, which the center has been doing since the 1995-96 season, is based on surveying one randomly selected episode from each network series during the season. "Statistically speaking, the randomization of the choice of episodes -- across many series -- should yield an accurate picture of the season of network shows because biases or idiosyncrasies are minimized," said Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center.
The number of female characters varied widely by network, with only the CW, at 52 percent, representing women "in accurate proportion to their representation in the U.S. population," the report said. ABC was next with a 43 percent showing, followed by CBS at 40 percent, Fox at 39 percent and NBC at 36 percent.
In addition to the drops among writers and directors, employment for women also was down among program creators (18 percent) and producers (37 percent). It was unchanged for executive producers (22 percent) and up slightly among editors (20 percent) and directors of photography (4 percent), the report said.
"Programs with at least one woman creator or writer featured more female characters than programs with no women creators or writers," it said.