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Directors Guild Reports Diversity Gains in TV Jobs

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The Directors Guild of America reported Thursday that women and non-white members continued to make gains in hiring for television jobs in the 2020-21 season, though representation lags among unit production managers and first assistant directors.

In its annual report, the DGA found that 38% of TV episodes were directed by women — up from 35% the prior season. The DGA also reported that 34% of episodes were directed by people of color, up from 29% the year before, and more than double the rate in 2014.

The report found gains among African Americans and Latinos, who directed 18% and 9% of TV episodes, respectively, compared to 15% and 7% the year prior. The percentage directed by Asian Americans remained flat at 7%, the report found.

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The DGA has been tracking diversity in TV for more than a decade. For the first time this year, the union expanded its survey to cover first assistant directors, second assistant directors and unit production managers. That report found racial and ethnic diversity among those jobs lags behind the rates for directors. Among 201 UPMs covered by the survey, 33% were women, and just 11% were people of color.

The survey also looked at 338 first assistant directors, finding that 31% were women and 22% were people of color. Second assistant directors were more diverse, with 46% women and 29% people of color out of 641 total jobs.

The lack of representation among those three job categories was particularly acute for Latinos and Asian Americans, with 6% and 4% respectively — well below the state and national shares of the population for each group.

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The total number of TV episodes shot in the 2020-21 season was down by 36% compared to the prior year, due to the months-long shutdown and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, a big question on our minds was whether progress on inclusive hiring would backslide as the production environment changed radically with the implementation of necessary COVID Safety Protocols,” Lesli Linka Glatter, the DGA president, said in a statement. “Despite all the production challenges, the good news is that inclusive hiring continued its upward climb last year — both in overall hiring, as well as hiring of first-time directors. That said – although there has been continued progress, the goal of a level playing field for all has not yet been achieved. In addition, the statistics clearly reveal this, especially for our Latino and Asian members.”

The DGA also issued a detailed breakdown of diversity hiring for each TV show, as well as a breakdown by studio.

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The Writers Guild of America also does a regular inclusion report, which has also documented dramatic gains for women and non-white TV writers over the last decade. The most recent report found that 37% of TV series writing jobs went to non-white writers, up from 13.6% in 2010. Women held 45.3% of those jobs, up from 29.3% a decade earlier.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — which represents the vast bulk of union TV and film workers — agreed last year to do its own annual diversity census, beginning this spring. But the union has yet to formulate a plan for conducting it.