The Primetime Emmy Awards are tonight, but don’t be surprised if there aren’t many women creatives up for awards

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The Primetime Emmy Awards are tonight. But in the past decade, women have received only 22 percent of the Primetime Emmy nominations for writing, directing, producing, and editing, according to an investigation by the Women’s Media Center. Photo provided

The Primetime Emmy Awards are tonight. But in the past decade, women have received only 22 percent of the Primetime Emmy nominations for writing, directing, producing, and editing, according to an investigation by the Women’s Media Center. Photo provided

Look beyond the glitzy gowns and golden statuettes at tonight’s Primetime Emmy Awards, and the numbers for women aren’t so shiny.

In the past decade, women have received only 22 percent of the Primetime Emmy nominations for writing, directing, producing, and editing, according to an investigation by the Women’s Media Center.

Although the Emmys cover many different jobs related to creating television programs, the Women’s Media Center focused on the categories of writing (6), directing (8), editing (10), and producing (20). In its analysis of the nominations made for the years 2006 through 2015, the center sought to take a detailed look at the gender ratios of jobs that have the most influence on what is depicted on the small screen, according to a news release.

Out of all the nominees nominated in 44 writing, directing, editing, and producing categories over the past decade, 2,074 of them were women, representing only 22 percent of the total. There were 7,485 men nominated, 78 percent of the total.

For this year’s 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards — which air at 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 p.m. Central on September 20 on Fox — women make up only 25 percent of the writing, directing, producing, and editing nominations.

The Need to Reflect Women’s Perspectives

“These are key behind-the-scenes roles, and the men and women in these roles have the power to decide and mold what the story is, who is in the story, and how the story is told. This is crucial to making sure women’s experiences, perspectives, voices, and images are part of any story,” Julie Burton, President of the Women’s Media Center, says in the news release.

“Clearly there is a connection between the broadcast, network, cable, and Netflix programs that hire exclusively male creators and the industry-wide gender divide. When there are few jobs for women, it is easy to see why so few women in non-acting categories are recognized for their excellence.”

Research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film shows that in 2014-2015 on primetime television, women were 26 percent of executive producers, 38 percent of producers, 26 percent of writers, 14 percent of directors, and 21 percent of editors, according to the release.

Compared to Big Screen Stats

That’s better than the numbers for women behind the camera in film, as previously reported on this blog from the Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles’ Female Filmmakers Initiative. The findings reported this year showed that across 1,300 top-grossing films from 2002 to 2014, only 4.1 percent of all directors were female. This calculates into a gender ratio of 23.3 male directors to every 1 female director.

But television is such a wider playing field with so many more opportunities, especially with online carriers like Netflix and Amazon broadening their scope into creating original content, that it’s discouraging to see that the numbers are still so far from from representative. I keep having to remind myself every time I see study results like these that women DO make up roughly 50 percent of the population – and that’s not the reality that people are going to see on screens big or small as long as there is such a dearth of women in key creative roles.

“The bottom line: if more women were hired as writers, directors, editors, producers, and especially as creators and executive producers, the talent pool for (Emmy) nominations would be more reflective of the overall population and audience — more than half of which are women,” Burton said in the release.

In the comedy series categories, Jill Soloway of the Amazon Instant Video show Transparent is the only woman nominated in both the writing and directing contests. Homeland’s Lesli Linka Glatter is the only female nominee for directing in a drama series, while Semi Chellas shares a nomination with Matthew Weiner for writing in a drama series for Mad Men.

Thanks to Bessie and Olive Kitteridge there are actually – gasp – multiple women nominated for writing and directing in the limited series or TV movie category: Dee Rees is nominated for directing Bessie, while Rees, Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois and Horton Foote are nominated for writing HBO’s biopic of legendary blues singer Bessie Smith. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko is nominated for directing Olive Kitteridge, while Jane Anderson got the nod for writing HBO’s  four-hour miniseries based on Elizabeth Stout’s 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

The Women’s Media Center analysis found that Amy Schumer’s nomination this year in Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series for the episode “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” is only the second nomination for a woman in that category since 2006.

Great Work by Women, Depressing Stats

The depressing statistics don’t take away from the great work those women are doing behind the camera, nor does it subtract from the excellent performances in front of the camera by current Emmy nominees like Viola Davis of How to Get Away with Murder, Taraji P. Henson of Empire, Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men, Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation, Jessica Lange of American Horror Story or any of the other women who are up for awards tonight. But imagine how many more outstanding performances like these we would have a chance to see if there were more women creatives writing, producing and directing what we see on TV.

“Clearly, the number of nominees for Emmys is not representative of the impact or the accomplishments of women writers, directors, producers, editors whose overall representation in all those categories is still far from equal to their talents or the opportunities, facts that the Women’s Media Center’s research so clearly indicates,” Pat Mitchell, chairperson of the Women’s Media Center Board of Directors, said in the news release.

Here’s a summary of the Women’s Media Center analysis — which used data from


  • From 2006 to 2015, women made up 13 percent of all the nominees in six writing categories, earning 171 nominations to 1,103 for men.
  • The addition of Inside Amy Schumer as a nominee to the category of Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series boosted the numbers.
  • In the category of Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, women make up only 22 percent of nominees over the course of 10 years, but Mad Men (which has now ended) accounts for a significant portion of the women nominated.


  • From 2006 to 2015, women made up only 8 percent of all directing nominations, earning 116 nominations; men received 1,417.
  • During that period, only two women have been nominated for an award for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series: Amy Schumer in 2015 for the episode “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” and Beth McCarthy-Miller in 2006 for an episode of Saturday Night Live.


  • In the past decade, women made up only 28 percent — or 1,640 — of the Primetime Emmy nominees in the 20 categories in which producers were nominated. Men accounted for 72 percent — 4,306.
  • By far, the highest concentration of women is to be found in the documentary film categories: Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking and Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special.
  • From 2006 to 2015, women have usually outnumbered men, 54 percent to 46 percent, in the Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking category.


  • From 2006 to 2015, women made up 18 percent of all nominees for editing awards, earning 147 nominations versus the 659 that went to men.
  • Only two of the editing categories showed progress in the number of women: Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming.
  • In 2015, women represented 40 percent of the nominees for Outstanding Picture Editing For A Drama Series, boosted by the AMC show Breaking Bad.
  • From 2006 to 2015, women received the largest percentage of editing nominations for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Limited Series or Movie: 25 percent.

* The Primetime Emmy Awards do not have categories for producers, but producers are nominated in multiple categories.

To read the full report of the Women’s Media Center’s 10-year investigation of gender and Emmy nominations, click here.

To see the full list of nominees for tonight’s Primetime Emmy Awards, click here.


Blunt on Women in Action: Emily Blunt, star of the upcoming drug war drama Sicario and last year’s well-reviewed sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow, tells NPR that she thinks “the tides are turning” for women in action movies.

“I think that what happens often in Hollywood, in the business, is that they crunch numbers on a film that has previously brought in a lot of money. And so you’ve got art versus commerce here. And usually a film is geared toward the opening weekend and it’s decided whether it’s a good or bad film based on its opening weekend — which I think is also a terrible thing,” she tells NPR.

“A film, when it’s being made, is usually geared towards teenage boys as they are the ones who seem to be going out and — according to the numbers — buying tickets. But as my mother would say: Well, I’m not a teenage boy and I don’t want to see a film about robots and aliens. So I think there’s a huge majority of people who are not in that age group or that gender group. …

“I just believe that we’ve got to keep writing fantastic roles for women and keep forwarding this fight because I think the tides are turning.”

Three Tomatoes Film Fest: The popular Three Tomatoes lifestyle guide for women “who aren’t kids” kicked off its Three Tomatoes film series Saturday afternoon at the Downtown Independent with the West Coast premiere of the award-winning documentary “Women of ’69, Unboxed,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Women of ’69, Unboxed” utilizes the unorthodox yearbook photos of the 370 women who graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1969 juxtaposed with interviews with several of the women today. The graduating class of the then-women’s college opted to think outside the box — or rather inside the box. Instead of putting their senior photos in a traditional yearbook, they opted to break the rules and put them in what they called a “yearbox.”

Defying Hollywood Agism: As reported last week on this blog, 2015 is shaping up as a year in which film is defying some of the gender odds, with multiple femme-centric vehicles either already released or waiting in the wings of a very busy awards season slate. But 2015 is also boasts some key films that are bucking Hollywood’s usual attitude that younger is better.

Todd Cunningham notes on that this year’s specialty box office has been dominated by movies aimed at mature audiences, films that tell stories that speak directly to Baby Boomers and star actors who have been fan favorites for decades. Along with Ian McKellan Mr. Holmes, he cites Lily Tomlin’s new film Grandma, Helen Mirren’s The Woman in Gold and the Judi Dench and Maggie Smith-led ensemble comedy The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as part of the trend.

Hollywood’s ageist tendencies especially affect women: As the New York Times reported last month, only 19.9 percent of female movies characters were 40 to 64 years old, according to the findings of a study titled “Inequality in 700 Popular Films.”

The report, produced by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, also found that from 2007 through 2014, women made up only 30.2 percent of all speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing fictional films released in the United States.


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