Some network executives have been forced to respond to an open letter penned by 76 women television writers asking why there is such a gender disparity in the writing staff of primetime shows.
The letter, which was published by Broadcast on Wednesday, demanded to know, “Why won’t you work with us?” and was signed by writers from How To Get Away With Murder, The Secrets, and Fresh Meat, according to Deadline. Though this has been a long-standing problem, the issue came to a head over ITV’s 2018 line up:
Of the nine new dramas listed, only one had a female lead writer. In fairness, the article was by no means definitive, as since it was published, ITV has announced two further dramas for 2018. Both by male writers.
That suggests that less than 10% of new drama greenlit by ITV for this year will be written by women. Perhaps you can now understand our rage? Less than 10%.
The letter explains that many women writers find work on “soaps,” and want to know why these writers aren’t being allowed to “graduate” to the next level on a drama series. In particular, flagship shows have a terrible history for hiring women: For example, the BBC’s Silent Witness has had only five women writers in 20 years and Doctor Who, which didn’t hire a woman writer for five seasons starting in 2009.
ITV drama chief Polly Hill told Broadcast that plans for more women-led dramas are going to be revealed soon, and the data the women in the letter cite is misleading.
“As we look to offer audiences the greatest range of drama, we will always support and commission female writers and take representation on- and off-screen seriously,” she said.
Piers Wenger, head of BBC1 drama, assured Deadline that since he became the controller, 40% of the dramas he’s ordered have been penned by women. He also told Broadcast that “a number” of women are writing for the newest iteration of Doctor Who, which is featuring a woman as the Doctor for the first time.
“Having a diverse team on that show feels appropriate, important and essential,” he said.
You can read the full letter here.