The latest San Diego State University report also shows stagnation in gender inclusion across broadcast, streaming and behind the scenes.
Women fared better on reality programs and game shows than as characters on scripted programs in 2022-23, according to a report released by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University (SDSU).
SDSU’s latest Boxed In report found that women made up 50% of the characters or contestants on unscripted programs but only 43% of characters on scripted programs featured on the broadcast networks and streaming services.
According to Marth Lauzen, executive director of the center, this is a positive trend. “These findings suggest that the percentage of females on screen will inch upward this year as television platforms rely more heavily on unscripted programs due to the interruption in production caused by the labor strikes,” she said.
Off the camera, women comprised 32% of people working on scripted and unscripted programs. Scripted programs had a higher number of women directors — 22%; unscripted programs had only 11%. Further, the study showed that women were more likely to be employed as producers on unscripted programs — 47% — than on scripted programs — 41%.
When considered by platform, original programs on streaming services and broadcast networks featured almost identical percentages of female characters in 2022-23. Women made up 45% of all speaking characters on original streaming programs and 44% on broadcast programs, both a slight retreat from 2021-22 numbers.
The report also showed that the percentage of female characters hasn’t changed substantially on broadcast television in over a decade. In 2007-08, females comprised 43% of all characters. In 2022-2023, females accounted for 44% of all characters. Streaming platform demographics showed the same trend. Females accounted for 44% of characters in 2016-17 and 45% in 2022-23.
The study found room for improvement in behind-the-scenes employment of women. The percentages of women creators declined from 29% in 2021-22 to 23% in 2022-23 on original broadcast network series, and from 30% to 29% on streaming series.
For 2022-23, the study tracked more than 3,500 characters and more than 4,500 behind-the-scenes credits. Over the last 26 years — from 1997-98 through 2022-23 — the study has monitored over 56,500 characters and more than 70,000 behind-the-scenes credits.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film is home to the longest-running and most extensive studies of women working in entertainment industries.