Despite an increasing push for more diversity on the small screen, Variety recently issued an investigation into new scripted television shows to find that the overwhelming majority of showrunners were still white and male.
In looking at new shows for the 2016-17 television season, Variety found that 90 percent of showrunners are white, and 80 percent are male.
This kind of representation matters not just because, as Variety reported, shows run by white men tend to lead to more shows led by white men, but because showrunners make decisions on hiring and firing as well as creative direction. And that lack of diverse creative ideas can stymie representation and lead the industry to fall into the same old tired patterns of stereotypical representation for people of color and women.
USC Annenberg’s Institute for Diversity and Empowerment noted in a recent study, for example, that women have more speaking roles when other women are at the helm of a project. What’s more, 19 percent of all networks had no speaking roles for African-Americans, and 59 percent had none for Asian Americans.
Even though we have amazing shows like “Empire” and “Black-ish” on television right now, these numbers speak to the sad truth that we still have a long, long way to go to find diversity in the entertainment industry.