A new survey findings’ reveal that diverse writers are routinely isolated, tokenized, and mistreated in contemporary writers rooms. The Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity (TTIE) interviewed 282 diverse TV writers — i.e. individuals who identified as women, non-binary, people of color, LGBTQ+, and/or people with disabilities — for its “Behind-the-Scenes: The State of Inclusion and Equity in TV” report.
Sixty-four percent of respondents have encountered bias, discrimination, or harassment by members of their writing staff. Fifty-eight percent say their agents emphasize their “otherness” while pitching them for jobs, and 42 percent started in entertainment as a “Diversity Slot” hire. Thirty-four percent of women/non-binary respondents were the “only one” — the only woman or only non-binary person — on the writing staff at least once. Thirty-eight percent of writers with disabilities, 65 percent of POC writers, and 68 percent of LGBTQ+ writers also report being the “only one.”
The survey also concludes diverse writers often stall or experience specific challenges in their careers. Seventy-three percent of respondents have had to repeat a title at least once. So did 82 percent of writers of color. Fifty-eight percent of diverse writers have received pushback for pitching “nonstereotypical diverse characters or storylines.”
These findings are sobering, to say the least, but TTIE’s report also includes some recommendations on how to make writers rooms more welcoming to people who aren’t straight, cis white men. The Think Tank urges those in power to “seek meaningful representation in hiring” by collecting and tracking writers room stats, creating mentorship and education programs, and providing unconscious bias and general management training. The report also suggests “removing systemic barriers to promotion and advancement for diverse writers,” such as financially incentivizing shows that encourage and support diverse writers and sanctioning shows that don’t. Finally, TTIE recommends “fixing the system to equitably address bias, discrimination, and harassment” by requiring networks and studios to hold exit interviews and launching an independent, third-party reporting system for workplace mistreatment.
Read the entire “Behind-the-Scenes” report here.