Study confirms why TV representation is failing, there aren’t enough Black writers in Hollywood
Color of Change recently conducted a study examining the writers rooms in Hollywood and it revealed that many major studios do not have any Black writers . Only 35% of writers rooms have at least one Black writer on staff, and within that 35% less than 5% of the writers in those rooms are Black. Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change summarized the problem in a statement “The outrageous level of exclusion in writers’ rooms has real-life consequences for black people, people of color and women.”
The report examined 234 original, scripted comedy and drama series across 18 television networks. AMC stood out as the worst for overall inclusiveness when taking into account both race and gender, something that negatively impacts Black women, as alluded to by Robinson. CBS and the CW are identified by the report as having a “Black problem” because they don’t have any Black writers. The report did not stop at just the writers rooms, it also looked at who was running shows on those networks. 81% of the time they were male, and 80% of the time they were white. This means that the people who are running shows are most likely to be white and male.
More troublesome, in the 17% of rooms that employ a Black writer, that writer is consistently passed over for advancement and has their ideas discarded. Furthermore, only 13.6% of these shows had multiple Black writers in the room when they were run by white people, while every show run by Black people had multiple white writers in the room. Additionally while Insecure and Queen Sugar exist, Robinson says that they are the anomalies in a system which generally marginalizes Black writers, male and female.
The report also unearths that in the networks’ diversity initiatives, which they tout as a metric for improving the conditions of their writers rooms, what often happens is that the networks cycle through the writers, only to eventually hire a junior writer and not any of the Black writers who come in through the diversity initiative.
Color of Change suggests that inclusion be mandated in outreach, application, interview and assessment processes, in addition to publicly setting goals in hiring and talent cultivation which will be supported by real budgets and concrete shifts in practices and transparency.