Women in Film: Only 16 Percent of Film Writers in U.K. Are Female

Only 16 percent of working film writers in the U.K. are female and only 14 percent of primetime TV is predominantly female-written, according to a report by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

About 28 percent of all TV episodes were written by women over the past decade, including the 14 percent in primetime: “TV shows and films written by women in the U.K. have flatlined during that period, with no consistent improvement in gender representation.”

The report, “Gender Inequality and Screenwriters,” was funded by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and written by Alexis Kreager with Stephen Follows. It analyzed the industry and surveyed 200 female writers.

Women film writers are facing a glass ceiling, according to the report. “Budgets for male-written films are higher, and across the course of their careers female writers average fewer films than their male counterparts,” according to the findings. “Bigger-budget genres, fantasy, action, sci-fi and adventure, have fewer female writers.”

Gender Inequality

Gender inequality prevails in other fields. “Key creative roles in film productions, for example, are held predominantly by men,” the report found. “This is impacting on female representation on screen (only 32 percent of cast credits on U.K. feature films went to women during the period covered by the research).”

The report also argues that films and TV shows written by women get more positive reactions from critics and audiences. Among the shows mentioned were the BBC’s Happy Valley and Call the Midwife, as well as ITV’s Victoria.

“This new independent research confirms that women screenwriters are still facing a glass ceiling, which is preventing them from getting the top writing jobs,” WGGB general secretary Ellie Peers said. “Films and TV shows written by women in the U.K. have flatlined over the past decade and remain at a shockingly low level.” She added: “Women make up over half the U.K. population, yet in film and TV they are an under-represented group.”

WGGB president Olivia Hetreed, who wrote the adapted screenplay for Girl With a Pearl Earring, added: “Female-written films are more successful and more popular than average, but the new research explains why market forces don’t operate in the face of the risky financing and old-fashioned hiring practices of U.K. filmmaking. Faced with such clear evidence we expect that commissioners, especially public funders, will work much harder to give equal opportunities to women and other under-represented writers, who in turn will produce work reflecting all our hopes, fears and aspirations.”

WGGB has launched a campaign, dubbed Equality Writes, to address the issues. It calls for program-level equality monitoring data, for public funders to pledge a 50/50 split between male- and female-written films by 2020 and for equality data on other groups, such as minorities, to take a broader view on underrepresentation in the industry.

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