Women More Represented on Reality TV Than Scripted Shows, SDSU Study Finds

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Women fared better on reality programs and game shows than as characters on scripted programs in 2022-23, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

The latest “Boxed In” report found that women made up 50% of the characters or contestants on unscripted programs but 43% of characters on scripted programs featured on the broadcast networks and streaming services.

“These findings suggest that the percentage of females on screen will inch upward this year as television platforms rely more heavily on unscripted programs due to the interruption in production caused by the labor strikes,” said Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center.

Of those not on camera, women comprised 32% of people working on scripted and unscripted programs. Women fared much better as directors on scripted programs — 22% — than on unscripted programs — 11%. According to Lauzen, women were more likely to be employed as producers on unscripted programs — 47% — than on scripted programs — 41%.

When considered by platform, original programs on streaming services and broadcast networks featured almost identical percentages of female characters in 2022-23, Lauzen wrote. Women made up 45% of all speaking characters on original streaming programs and 44% on broadcast programs, both a slight retreat from 2021-22 numbers.

“The percentage of female characters hasn’t changed substantially on broadcast television in over a decade,” Lauzen said. “In 2007-08, females comprised 43% of all characters. In 2022-2023, females accounted for 44% of all characters. The story is much the same for streamers. Females accounted for 44% of characters in 2016-17 and 45% in 2022-23.”

The study found room for improvement in behind-the-scenes employment of women. The percentages of women creators declined from 29% in 2021-22 to 23% in 2022-23 on original broadcast network series, and from 30% to 29% on streaming series.

In 2022-23, the study tracked more than 3,500 characters and more than 4,500 behind-the-scenes credits. Over the last 26 years — from 1997-98 through 2022-23 — the study has monitored over 56,500 characters and more than 70,000 behind-the-scenes credits.

For over two decades, Lauzen has conducted research on the representation and employment of women on screen and behind the scenes in film and television. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film is home to the longest-running and most extensive studies of women working in entertainment industries.

Updated at 6:31 p.m. Oct. 17, 2023

–City News Service