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Boxed In: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in the 2007-08 Prime-time Season
Boxed In: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in the 2007-08 Prime-time Season

Martha M Lauzen, Ph.D.
School of Communication
San Diego State University

The percentage of female characters appearing on broadcast network programs inched up slightly during the 2007-08 prime-time season while the percentage of women working behind the scenes remained stable.

On screen, females accounted for 43% of all characters last season, up one percentage point from the 2006-07 season.  This figure represents a historical high. However, female characters continued to be significantly younger than their male counterparts.  For example, 70% of all characters in their 50s and 61% of all characters in their 60s were male.  Females 40 and older comprised 11% of all characters.  In contrast, males 40 and older accounted for 21% of all characters.

Women comprised 26% of all creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography working on situation comedies, dramas, and reality programs.  This percentage represents no change from last season.  Women writers and directors of photography experienced significant declines this year.  The percentage of women writers dropped from 35% in the 2006-07 season to 23% in 2007-08.  The percentage of women directors of photography declined from a meager 3% in 2006-07 to a microscopic 1% in 2007-08

Findings/Behind the Scenes

•    This study examined 2,407 individuals working behind the scenes on one randomly selected episode of every prime-time drama, situation comedy, and reality program airing on ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, MyNetworkTV, and NBC.
•    Overall, women fared best as producers (37%), followed by writers (23%), creators (22%), executive producers (22%), editors (17%), directors (11%), and directors of photography (1%).




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New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts