The Amount Of Female Writing & Directing Nominees At The 2016 Emmys Is A Step Forward, But There's Still Work To Be Done — INFOGRAPHIC
When it comes to gender equality in the entertainment industry, television has been more inclusive than film in recent years — at least when it comes to what the audience sees. It's a slightly different story when you look at the people behind-the-scenes and while the amount of Emmy nominations for female directors and writers is far less depressing than the number of women directors and writers nominated at the Oscars, there is still a trend that I've noticed with the 2016 nominees that I'd like to see fixed in future years. Women directors and writers seem to have the best chance of being nominated if the story is about a woman and if a woman is the showrunner. While that shouldn't diminish the talents of the female 2016 Emmy nominees, skilled women writers and directors should not only be recognized for telling specifically female stories.
Ignoring the acting nominees at awards shows since they are split equally into male and female categories, the number of women who work behind the scenes in positions of power in the entertainment industry is far from equal, as a 2015 study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film proved, and that is apparent when it comes to nominations at awards shows. Only four women (four!) have ever been even nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards with Kathryn Bigelow being the only woman to win for her 2010 film The Hurt Locker. Compared to the Oscars, the Emmys are practically a treasure trove of women directors. However, in a world where women make up half of the population, the television industry still has a long way to go with the Episodic Television Diversity Report by the Directors Guild of America (DGA) stating that only 17 percent of the 4,000 episodes that aired on network and cable television in 2015 were directed by women.
The Women's Media Center (WMC) analyzed the number of women nominees at the Emmys this year and found that women make up only 25 percent of the writing, directing, editing, and producing nominees — a number that didn't change from last year. The president of the WMC, Julie Burton, said, "There is a clear connection between the broadcast, network and cable programs that hire mostly male creators and the industry-wide gender divide. When there are few jobs for women, it is easy to see why so few women in non-acting categories are recognized for their excellence — if you cannot get through the door, you cannot be celebrated with Emmy nominations and honors."
I did my own calculations of the total female nominees and found that out of the 173 people nominated in writing and directing categories, only 38 were women. For directing, out of 38 nominees, eight were women (I did not include the technical directing awards like the WMC did) and for writing, out of 135 nominees, 30 were women (this is a small disparity from the numbers the WMC found of 134 nominees and 31 women). You can see the WMC data represented in Bustle's graph below.
Looking historically at women nominated for Emmys in directing and writing categories, the television awards show itself does not appear to be sexist — it is more a symptom of a larger issue of gender inequality within the entertainment industry. But in addition to the lack of numerical equality, I'm taken aback by how the women nominated in 2016 largely seem to work on shows that are also about women, which inspired me to create an equation of:
Female Story + Female Showrunner/Producer = Higher Likelihood of a Woman Being Nominated
As women struggle to have their voices heard, female storytelling is far from a bad thing, and it makes sense that a female creator would want to tell a story she may relate to, but I wouldn't want women to be limited to exclusively telling such stories. Women in the television industry should be able to tell all types of stories — just like men have done for years. With that in mind, let's review every woman nominated in the writing and directing categories for the 2016 Emmys to see if my equation holds any water.
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series — 1 Out Of 7
When it comes to Outstanding Directing for scripted shows, the directors are nominated for their work on a single episode. For comedy, there are seven nominees and only one of them is a woman. It should come as no surprise that the sole female director is Jill Soloway, the creator of Transparent who won this same award last year. While the lead actor of Transparent is a male, the story is about a trans woman and how her family deals with this. Although Transparent is anything but a typical family drama, this type of show (you know, one with a lot of feelings) is usually deemed to be more female-friendly. Not to mention, Soloway created the show, so she obviously can be in control of who directs episodes.
The Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series category has actually been dominated by women in the last few years with Soloway's win in 2015 being preceded by Gail Mancuso's back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014 for Modern Family. If Soloway wins again in 2016, get ready to celebrate since it would mean that women took home the gold for four years in a row in this category — an unheard of feat in any awards category in any awards show (you know, besides a category specifically recognizing actresses).
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series — 1 Out Of 6
As for drama, Lesli Linka Glatter has been nominated for her direction of Homeland in 2013, 2015, and now 2016, where – get ready to be shocked — she's the only woman nominated in that category. And if you're having déjà vu from 2015, you should be since Soloway and Glatter were the only female directors nominated last year in the big categories of comedy and drama. One consolation is that Glatter is on the board of the DGA, so she knows firsthand the discrimination in the industry and has made a point of speaking out about it.
While Homeland has always had a plot that appeals to a wide audience, perhaps now, more than ever, Homeland is solidly Carrie's story. Glatter has worked to become the predominant director of the series, directing four episodes a season, as well as becoming an executive producer, IndieWire wrote. Yet again though, a series about a woman with women in positions of power behind the scenes (Claire Danes is also a producer) appears to be the right set of circumstances for a woman to direct. Even though Glatter has found success, she is not happy with the lack of opportunities for female directors, perfectly articulating the problem to IndieWire by saying, "There's no reason women can't direct the same things men can direct. It's just ludicrous that we're still talking about this in 2016. It's crazy thinking, as ludicrous as saying men can't direct women, of course they can. If someone understands the story and wants to tell that story, they will hopefully do a great job."
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series — 1 Out Of 9
The only female writer to be nominated in the category of Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series is Sharon Horgan. Along with her comedy partner Rob Delaney, she was nominated for "Episode 1" of their series Catastrophe. Horgan and Delaney created this romcom, so this is the perfect example of my equation since Catastrophe stars a woman, is in a genre that is typically viewed to be preferred by women, and was created by the woman who stars in it.
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series — 3 Out Of 10
Buckle up, my female and male friends, because the Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series features not one, not two, but three women as nominees. Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro share a nomination for UnREAL's "Return" episode, a show on Lifetime about a reality dating TV series that features two very strong female characters and was created by Noxon and Shapiro. While this doesn't break the mold in any sense when it comes to my theory, at least I can be happy that the network geared toward women has finally been recognized at a prestigious awards ceremony.
The third woman recognized in drama writing category is Michelle King. Like Horgan, she shares this nomination with a man whom she created the series with. The married couple of Robert King and Michelle King created The Good Wife and have been recognized for the series finale episode, "End." At this point, it seems beyond obvious to mention how perfectly Michelle King's nomination fits into my equation, even though that shouldn't take away from her tremendous work on the series for the last seven seasons.
Other Directing Nominees — 6 Out Of 25
While the comedy and drama categories are usually given the most attention, another biggie is Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special. Another male-dominated category, there is one female nominee, Susanne Bier for the AMC miniseries The Night Manager. I can't pretend that The Night Manager was a female story (although Bier did change the male character of Burr from John le Carré's book to the female Angela Burr for the series), so this is one nominee that bucks the trend.
Variety series and specials also get acknowledgment from the Emmys and although there are no women nominees for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series, there are two for Variety Special — and neither are really shocking once you know what they are for. Beth McCarthy-Miller is nominated for directing Adele Live In New York City and Beyoncé Knowles Carter (yes, the Beyoncé) is nominated with Kahlil Joseph for directing her own visual album, Lemonade. Two of the biggest superstars in the music industry continue to make me proud that I'm the same gender as them as they use their fame to give opportunities to women or to raise awareness of women's issues, particularly women of color's issues in the case of Queen Bey.
The final directing category to feature women is Outstanding Directing for a Nonfiction Program. Liz Garbus was nominated for the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? about female icon Nina Simone. And Making a Murderer was a sensation this year, so it should come as no surprise that the filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos both earned nominations — and have already won — this category. Like The Night Manager, the Netflix documentary wasn't geared toward or about women, so it's another rare example of women being recognized for telling other stories.
Other Writing Nominees — 26 Out Of 116
Writing is inherently a more collaborative process than directing, so there are more opportunities for women to earn Emmy nominations in the categories for Variety Series and Special. For Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series, all of the nominated shows — Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Portlandia, and Saturday Night Live — have women writers on the staff (woot!). As for Variety Special, comedians Amy Schumer and Tig Notaro are both nominated for writing their specials, Amy Schumer: Live At The Apollo and Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted, respectively. And it is with immense sarcasm that I note that I can't believe that out of the 20 writers nominated for Hulu's Triumph's Election Special 2016, not a single one is a woman. Who would have figured the crass dog with a cigar wasn't written by a woman?
Four women are nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program with Ricciardi and Demos predictably earning nominations — and the win — for Making a Murderer. And I'm pleased to note that the other two women in this category disprove my equation just like Ricciardi and Demos have. Sarah Burns was nominated alongside David McMahon for writing the PBS documentary Jackie Robinson and Sarah Colt was nominated with Tom Jennings and Mark Zwonitzer for the documentary Walt Disney for PBS' American Experience. The only woman to be a subject of a documentary that was nominated for writing is HBO's Everything Is Copy — Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted , which was written by Ephron's son. So it looks like these nonfiction programs and documentaries may have found the answer to gender equality when it comes to storytelling that scripted shows just haven't yet.
Acknowledging gender inequality when it comes to women behind the scenes in TV and film is a good step, but not enough to figuring out this problem. And as grateful as I am to see more TV shows about women and created by women, I'd love to see women given the opportunity to direct and write shows of all different topics and genres, regardless of gender. That may seem revolutionary, but it really isn't when you remember that it's exactly what male directors and writers have been doing for as long as television has existed.
Images: Giphy; Dawn Foster/Bustle