Scale of Gender Inequality in UK Screenwriting Exposed

A new report has exposed the scale of gender inequality in the UK screenwriting industry. The report reveals that just 16% of working film writers in the UK are female, and that only 14% of prime-time TV is written by women.

Commissioned by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) and funded by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS), the report shows that there has been no improvement in gender representation in the screenwriting industry over the last ten years.

Key findings in the report

  • The percentage of television episodes written predominantly by women over the last 10 years is just 28%. This drops to 14% for prime-time, 11% for comedy and 9% for light entertainment.
  • On average, budgets for male-written films are higher, and across the course of their careers female writers average fewer films than their male counterparts. Bigger budget genres such as fantasy, action, sci-fi and adventure have fewer female writers.
  • Gender inequality is not limited to writers – key creative roles in film productions for example are held predominantly by men. This is impacting on female representation on screen (only 32% of cast credits on UK feature films went to women during the period covered by the research).
  • Bias amongst hirers, lack of formal or open hiring systems, inadequate equality data collection and ineffective regulatory systems are all contributing to gender inequality in the industry.
  • 53% of respondents to a survey of WGGB members conducted by the authors of the report suggested they had seen evidence of discrimination over the course of their careers.

In response to these findings, WGGB have started a campaign called Equality Writes.  The campaign aims to effect positive change in the industry, and calls for programme-level TV equality monitoring data to be released, and public funders to pledge a 50/50 split between male and female-written films by 2020.

Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, Chair of the Society of Authors Scriptwriters’ Group, said:

“We are all aware that women are under-represented in the screenwriting industry, but the figures revealed in this report are truly shocking.

“With just 16% of film and 14% of prime-time TV written by women, it is clear that vast gender inequalities are prevalent across the industry. It is simply not good enough. I hope that this acts as a wake-up call for the industry, and that effective action will now be taken to ensure women writers are properly represented.”