Why STILL So Few Women Writers in TV and Film?

Call The Midwife, BBC Drama written by Heidi Thomas

Back in February 2018 over 70 female writers sent UK TV Drama commissioners a letter saying, in effect, why won’t you work with us? They had looked at the released schedules (no doubt tearing their hair out) and noted that about 10% of all forthcoming drama on TV would be written by women; they were rightly outraged. The signatories, including Sally Abbott, who created The Coroner, the writer and actress Sarah Solemani and the Bafta-nominated writer Lisa Holdsworth, said hardworking female writers “remain an untapped resource” in the UK. Ye gods, women are still a largely untapped resource in every field. They also added:

And this goes double for our BAME colleagues, who also seem to be consistently conspicuous by their absence.

Fast forward a few months to May 2018 and The Writers Guild Of Great Britain has just published some damning statistics proving their point.

The Study

The *results show a ‘self-sustaining loop’ that perpetuates gender imbalance. It reveals that women write only 28% of TV episodes and make up 16% of film screenwriters. This is based on data gathered over 10 years and identifies a continuing bias against half the population.

Maybe women don’t want to write for TV?

That is emphatically not the case, with research by the British Film Institute showing that women make up a much higher proportion of screenwriting students than professional screenwriters, indicating that producers are failing to nurture new talent and relying too heavily on tried-and-tested male voices. It was ever thus.

Maybe audiences don’t like stories that women write?

Wrong again. According to the research from the Writer’s Guild films written by women make more money than those by men and tend to get a better positive critical response. Current TV favourites being Call the Midwife, (Heidi Thomas) Victoria, (Daisy Goodwin) and Happy Valley (Sally Wainwright)

Said Frog Stone, actor and writer:

It’s lazy, outdated thinking, probably linked to a broader social issue of how male narratives and perspective are seen as both excitingly individual and universal, but female narratives and perspectives are seen as niche.

Time for change. I hope someone is listening.

 10 Brilliant British female screenwriters whose work you need to watch (Stylist magazine)

*The report, Gender Inequality and Screenwriters, was funded by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and authored by Alexis Kreager with Stephen Follows.

An Opportunity for You

There are still a couple of places available (at time of writing) on my RenewYou women’s course next month. (Aspiring writers especially welcomed!) Actually, any woman is welcome, especially so if you feel at a bit of a crossroads, want some time to reflect on life and consciously plan your next 12 months. More information is here, and you can ask me any questions by replying to this email. I’d love to talk with you. The last couple of courses have been run in Johannesburg by one of our excellent  licensed trainers but you don’t have to go that far. This one is in Bristol on June 12th. Plus, if you’d care to join me on Twitter here I am @JaneCWoods

Carry on being womanly wonderful and supporting the sisterhood. I truly believe a world with more women in positions of power and influence, enabled, empowered and equal, will be a much better world for everyone. One day…

You might also like to read this – Men Are Much Better Writers Than Women….Really?


Posted on May 30th, 2018 by

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