Women Screenwriters Losing Ground (And We Didn’t Start with Much)

A new report out of the Writers Guild of America shows that the number of female screenwriters is dwindling, and they are making 77 cents on the dollar compared to male writers.

Now, I don’t know the breakdown of men versus women who are trying to become screenwriters, but based on what I’ve seen at writing conferences, classes, writers groups, and among the followers of this very site, it seems that women make up at least a third and perhaps even half of all the people trying to become professional screenwriters.

But women aren’t getting as far as men in this field, and it’s worth asking why.

Todd Cunningham of The Wrap reports:

There are fewer women writing for feature films and they make less than their male counterparts, according to new figures released Monday by the Writers Guild of America West. Women accounted for just 15 percent of sector employment — down from 17 percent in 2009 — and are outnumbered by more than three-to-one among screenwriters, according to an early summary of the 2014 Hollywood Writers Report, the WGAW’s analysis of the state of diversity in writing for television and film. Women film writers earned just 77 cents for every dollar earned by white male film writers in 2012, down from 82 cents in 2009, the survey said. 

He adds:

While the report findings show modest gains for minority and women television writers, such increases are offset by a continuing decline in employment for women and minority screenwriters, illustrating the stark reality that the entertainment industry remains an inequitable landscape.

And things aren’t any better in the independent film world. Jordan Zakarin of The Wrap recently wrote:

Women filmmakers have largely been frozen out of the studio world, and their numbers are now falling in the independent film realm as well.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State U. analyzed the lineups of 23 different prestigious film festivals that took place between May 2013 and 2014, with alarming findings.

Overall, the percentage of women working in key positions (i.e., producers, executive producers, cinematographers and editors) on movies held at 26 percent, the same as 2011-2012. However, women comprised just 23 percent of directors, down from 29 percent in 2011-12, and 22 percent of writers, down from 24 percent in 11-12.

What do you think? Are women simply less interested in writing than men? Are they less aggressive about pursuing their careers? Or are women writers being treated differently than their male counterparts? Leave your thoughts below.

One thought on “Women Screenwriters Losing Ground (And We Didn’t Start with Much)

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  1. I think it’s a combination of all the things you’ve suggested. But one thing is clear. This is very, very bad news. It says the industry has become very money (Hollywood) and ego (both Hollywood and Indie)-centered. The worst thing for the art of filmmaking is for women to be shut out either through losing their will to write or being pushed out both economically and because of the very forbidding landscape that the industry presents to outsiders. So women, if they have a mind to write, prefer books and articles. But film is a great art form and women provide a perspective so vitally necessary to any story, unless it’s really mindless crap that excites boys and cheapens the world of film, that it is incumbent upon us men, especially if we have pull, to make extra effort to give women a vital role in filmmaking, not only in the writing of it but in the directing and producing, both of which have been almost exclusively male roles. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense for an industry that features women in its leading roles to say words that only a man could think up. It leaves the viewer with a very shallow impression of the women in film next to the men who seem more like the men you know in life. What’s really dangerous is that many of the film scripts written by men give a very false impression of women to male viewers and encourage a very unrealistic kind of thinking on the part of boys and young men about how girls and women view life. Plus we have so much to gain by the deeper and richer life perspective that women have to offer that men, very testosterone-driven and tending to think in very abstract binary byte-size logic, just cannot offer, especially when you’re trying to write and flesh out a script about real people. BRING BACK THE WOMEN WRITERS!!!!

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