WEST HOLLYWOOD—A report from the Writer’s Guild of America, West (WGAW) underlined the differences in earnings and employment of women and minority writers on April 14.
The 2014 Hollywood Writers Report, written by Darnell Hunt, of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African-American Studies at UCLA, broke down the numbers when it came to the earnings of women and minorities across film and television and compared them to those belonging to white males, a group that has traditionally been the dominant force across the field of writing in Hollywood. The report compared the numbers from 2009, which the report stated was the last year considered from the previous report and the ones from 2012.
It was found that female writer’s share in film employment had increased slightly from 24 percent to 25 percent between 2009 and 2012, which was due in part to the notion that employment for women has remained higher in television than in film. Female writers were found to be underrepresented by a factor of two to one in television and three to one in film.
“This is not a pipeline problem and if we just fill the pipeline with more women, more women would work,” said Martha Lauzen, a researcher and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. The WGAW released several statements from women in the entertainment industry with regards to the report.
The earnings gap between men and women in television declined from $9,409 in 2009 to $9,109 in 2012. In the realm of film, the earnings gap between the genders had widened from $14,109 to $18,224.
The minority share of television employment also rose slightly from 10 percent to 11 percent, whereas their share of film employment remained stagnant at 5 percent. One of the biggest jumps was found in the earnings gap between minorities and white male writers in television, which displayed a large increase from $9,906 in 2011 to $21,250 in 2012, meaning, as the report stated, that minority writers made about 83 cents for every dollar earned by white males. The earnings gap between the same groups in film widened from $20,864 to $30,000 in 2012.
“In this day and age, the numbers make you want to slit your wrists,” said writer Melissa Rosenberg in statement to the WGAW. “It’s a brutal business.”
Combining both film and television writers, the report noted that the overall earnings gap between women and white males declined from $17,343 to $13,050, while the gap also dropped between minorities and white males from $30,118 to $29,958, though this gap still represents an unsatisfactory number, according to the report.
The report then broke down the employment and earnings numbers between age groups, where writers between 41 and 50 years of age increased their employment share in television to 37 percent in 2012. Younger writers between 31 and 40-years-old dropped their share to 34 percent, and writers younger than 31 made up the smallest number at 7 percent. Older writers between the ages of 51 to 60, held onto an 18 percent share of employment.
In film, the numbers almost matched up as the writing group between the ages of 41 to 50 held a 30 percent majority in employment share compared to the 32 percent of writers between the ages of 31 and 40.
The report also found that the 41 to 50 age group for writers earned the most in both television and film with median earnings at $141,698 and $93,750, respectively. The smallest median earnings were found to be owned by writers less than 31 and writers between the ages of 61 and 70, both earning $50,000 for 2012.
Despite some of the increases and positive progress made across some of the minority groups in the film and television writing world, the report admitted at there is still work to do to diversify the field as the audience itself becomes more and more diverse.
“As a consequence, opportunities to tell the type of stories that are more likely to resonate with increasingly diverse audiences have been far from realized,” said the report.
As a response, the WGAW instituted the Writer Access Project (WAP), a script judging contest sponsored by the WGAW, in an effort to find spec scripts from diverse writers to “identify ‘showrunner-certified’ talent” and to “expose judges to the richness of the talent pool of diverse writers.” The 2014 round saw an all-time high of submissions with 164 scripts sent to be judged compared to the 149 scripts submitted during the 2009 inaugural year.
“Before we are likely to realize meaningful, sustained change, however, other industry players, the networks, studios, and agents, will have to go well beyond what they have routinely done in the past to address the troubling shortfalls evident on the diversity front among writers,” the report stated.