The Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity conducted a survey of 282 working television writers and/or writing fellowship alumni in the U.S. between July 28 and September 1, 2018 to determine the writers’ room experiences of writers who identified as people with disabilities, people of color, LGBTQ and women or non-binary. The findings reveal that 64% of diverse writers experienced harassment, bias or discrimination, 58% experienced microaggressions, 53% reported rejection of a proposed idea even when the same idea was accepted when pitched by a non-diverse writer and 58% reported pushback when proposing a non-stereotypically diverse storyline or character.
The study also found that 34% of non-binary and women writers reported being the only non-binary or woman member of the writing staff. Thirty-eight percent of writers with disabilities, 68% of people of color and 68% of LGBTQ writers reported the same experience.
When asked about who they thought to be the most resistant to inclusive story content, 61% of the respondents said the showrunners, 35% believe it was the studio, 36% said it was the No. 2 on staff, 37% reported it was the general writers’ room and 41% said it was the network. More than half of the writers said they have never worked on a show with all non-diverse main characters.
The report offers some suggestions on how to improve the treatment and representation of diverse writers. These include the collaboration among networks, studios, production companies, agencies and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) to collect and review equity and inclusion data, the incorporation of best practices into the showrunners’ training program of the WGA and the establishment of a code of conduct that would incentivize the promotion of diverse writers and enforce sanctions for offenders.