Rise in Television Episodes Directed by Women and People of Color: Report

The 2020-2021 television season saw an uptick in the number of episodes directed by women and people of color, according to a Directors Guild of America (DGA) report released this week.

The DGA's annual Episodic Television Director Inclusion Report found that women directed 38 percent of the 2,691 television episodes covered by the guild, up 4 percent over the 2019-2020 season. People of color directed 34 percent of the episodes, a 2 percent increase over the previous season.

The film and television industry has for years been called upon to increase efforts to diversify the representation of people onscreen and behind the camera. American audiences have been found to prefer diverse casts in television, according to a recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Directors Guild of American inclusion report
The Directors Guild of America's annual inclusion report found an uptick in the numbers of female directors and directors of color during the 2020-2021 television season. Above, a clapperboard is photographed on the set of an Amazon Prime TV series on April 12, 2021, in Miami, Florida. Manny Hernandez/GC Images

While the Los Angeles-based guild's latest report said the findings demonstrate "incremental" growth for women and people of color, it said progress is lagging for Latino and Asian American directors.

According to the report, Latino directors oversaw 9 percent of the guild-covered episodes, while Asian Americans directed 7 percent. Meanwhile, 18 percent of the episodes were guided by Black directors, and fewer than 1 percent were directed by Native Americans. White filmmakers comprised the majority of television directors for the season, overseeing 62 percent of all episodes.

Among filmmakers taking the director's seat for the first time, the DGA report noted a 10-point gain among directors of color, who accounted for 39 percent of the season's first-time directing opportunities. Forty-six percent went to women, a 2 percent drop compared to the previous season.

In comparison with television directors of color, television directorial teams were comprised of a smaller percentage of people of color, with about 24 percent for the 2020-2021 season. Seventy percent of directorial team jobs were held by white individuals, while Latino and Asian Americans held 10 percent and Black individuals made up 13 percent of team hires. Women held 39 percent of the directorial team positions, the report said.

The DGA noted this was the first inclusion report that incorporated an assessment of episodic television directorial teams. Including this data would "create an important new baseline of current studio hiring practices for the directorial team," DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter said in a Thursday press release.

The coronavirus pandemic had an impact on the industry during the television season reviewed for the report. While the assessment included data gleaned from 2,691 episodes of television, the DGA said that number represented a 36 percent drop in content volume from the previous season.

Glatter said the DGA had wondered whether inclusive hiring efforts might "backslide" as the industry grappled with the pandemic, but said that did not appear to have been the case.

"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," Glatter said in the release.

Even with the recent progress, Glatter acknowledged that the report demonstrates continuing inclusive hiring lags within television. She pointed specifically to the report's statistics on Latino and Asian American directors and said of the industry in general that the "goal of a level playing field for all has not yet been achieved."

The DGA report focused on industry hiring trends by gender, race and ethnicity, but it said future reporting will likely be more expansive.

"The DGA began the process of identifying and tracking our LGBTQ and Disabled members in 2021 and will be looking to add inclusion statistics regarding both communities in future reporting," the guild said.

The DGA referred Newsweek to the comments Glatter made in the release when reached Friday for comment.