Thursday, May 10, 2007

Artists and Writers: So Who's Doing the Work, Genderwise?

Over the last few days different media outlets have reported on the new Writers Guild of America study that details who exactly is finding employment in the entertainment biz:

The Writers Guild of America West has provided another downbeat outlook on employment for minority and female scribes in Hollywood.

"I wish we could say that we did not have to issue this damn depressing report," noted WGA West prexy Patric Verrone at a news conference Tuesday at guild headquarters. "This report has a familiar ring to it."

Darnell Hunt, author of the guild-commissioned "2007 Hollywood Writers Report -- Whose Stories Are We Telling?" asserted that the key findings show that "business as usual" practices aren't adequate to address the lack of diversity among writers. He noted that with more than 30% of America nonwhite, minorities held only 9% of TV slots in 2005, down from 10% in 2004...

The report also found participation by women writers had remained virtually unchanged in both small-screen and features, staying at 27% in TV and creeping up to 19% from 18% in films. And in the one bright spot in the report, women managed to nearly match men in average TV earnings, at $94,123 -- just $267 short of the male figure.

The same issues (and similar numbers) have vexed animation studios. When I walk through various facilities, I see way more men than women, and way more whites than any other ethnicity.

TAG did a "See Jane" panel last year, where male and female panelists examined the ratio of women to men in the workplace, and the results were much as the WGA found them:

Directors and producers: 13.9% women (median age 45)

Writers: 10.3% women (median age 42)

Storyboard: 14.1% women (median age 40)

Development Artists (pre-animation): 17.0% women (median age 42)

2-D Artists: (animation and b.g.): 35% women (median age 42)

Tech Directors: 16% women (median age 37)

Checkers: 51.5% women (median age 46)

Not great numbers. You'll note that "Checkers", a technical job, has higher percentages. This is probably because checking was long affiliated with traditional ink-and-paint departments. Which were heavily female.

I don't think the low numbers are a reflection of skills and competency, although that argument is sometimes put forward. Years ago, a grizzled old novelist and screenwriter lectured me about how "women couldn't write good male characters and men couldn't write females."

The gentleman is long dead, but if he wasn't, I'd run to his nursing home and tell him he's pretty much full of crap. One of the more memorable male characters in film and/or literature is a dude named Rhett Butler. Margaret Mitchell would be surprised to learn that she didn't have the necessary skills to create him.

6 comments:

Doodlebugg said...

The median ages are older than I expected.

It seems that there are more and more younger women artists that are getting into the industry, however. If they choose to move up the career ladder into more leadership positions, I wonder if the gender ratios would change.

Anonymous said...

stories like these are such bullshit.
should studio recruiters infiltrate schools and hold guns to the heads of so-called "minorities" and women and FORCE them to have an interest in writing or art?
the reason there are fewer minority/female writers and artists in the industry is because fewer minorities/females WANT to be in it.
the market is so competitive right now that productions couldn't afford to be discriminative if they wanted to. i've never seen a producer turn a qualified artist or writer away based on their race or gender. if anything, i've only witnessed the opposite... i've seen people get hired PURELY to add 'diversity' to the production despite their sub-par work.

RedDiabla said...

i've never seen a producer turn a qualified artist or writer away based on their race or gender. if anything, i've only witnessed the opposite... i've seen people get hired PURELY to add 'diversity' to the production despite their sub-par work.

I've never seen anyone hired despite sub-par work due to their gender or race, but I have seen it happen when the "sub-par" artist is friends with someone on the production.

As for the whole thing about minorities and women not being interested in getting into animation...maybe.

I once talked to a class of jr. high kids who were non-white about getting into animation, and the thought that they could draw cartoons for a living apparently hadn't occured to them. Different cultural influences is all I can figure.

Steve Hulett said...

the reason there are fewer minority/female writers and artists in the industry is because fewer minorities/females WANT to be in it.

This might be correct, but without any sourcing or statistics to support your claim, it's hard to take your assertion seriously.

I mean, we know fewer minorities/women want to get into the business how? Because you say so? Because you've talked to some people and have some anecdotal evidence? What?

Anonymous said...

Some jobs get earmarked culturally as "male".

For a brief(VERY brief) period in the history of commercial art women were as represented as men--both in art schools and as employed for magazines. Men still took precedence, earned more, and got more jobs, but there were quite a few women. I guess one bIg reason women were part of commerical illustration at all was that art was relatively genteel as a trade, and so that heyday for females was about 1900-early 30s. It tapered off in the 1940s and especially postwar. Suddenly it was odd and weird again for a woman's name to be at the bottom of a magazine cover--and then photography took over. Most of those were male, too. Please don't tell me that the reason there were more male fashion photographers than female in 1950 was because women didn't WANT to do it. It was because a woman's place, my friend, was as seen on TV. Men "needed" jobs. Women in america were expected to get married to those men and raise families at home.

Anyway, at some point as established by the hiring practices of the largest studio, Disney, animation--the inheritor of illustration--became a "man's job". Women were told they couldn't be considered for the best postiions. There were only women in ink and paint, the most dull(if technically demanding)job in animation. The pay stank. No one had a long term job.

I don't buy that women don't want to do animation, but frankly, although clearly some guys feel that everywhere they look there's rampant promotion of women & minorities for "diversity", supposedly unfairly hired and/or promoted, that fact is that the like begets like, men hire their friends, and their friends tend to be other men. The fact that "bias" isn't intantional doesn't mean it doesn't exist if only by a kind of inertia.

Anonymous said...

"the reason there are fewer minority/female writers and artists in the industry is because fewer minorities/females WANT to be in it. "

"This might be correct, but without any sourcing or statistics to support your claim, it's hard to take your assertion seriously."

Yes, because without utterly biased media statistics, there can be no validity to my theory.

The "proof" that the reason there aren't more women/minorities in animation is simply because they don't want to be is that if they WERE, the numbers of them would be higher.

The fact is, with VERY rare exceptions, if someone wants to do something, they find a way to do it and make it happen (see "The Pursuit of Happyness"). Race and sex-based discrimination is pretty much obsolete in a competitive marketplace.

Sure, bigotry still exists, but usually greed wins out over prejudice... and the companies/people out there who still make decisions based on gender or race biases wind up losing out in the long run for their antiquated opinions.
Same goes for people who only hire their "buddies"... if they suck, their productions suffer and everyone eventually winds up paying for such shortsightedness.

The only people who still perpetuate the myth of the "boy's club" are either people who love to feel like victims or organizations that love to PREY on people who love to feel like victims.

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