TV Episodes Directed by Women or Directors of Color Hits Record Number - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

Diversity continues to grow in the television industry. According to Variety, half of all TV episodes in the 2018-19 season were directed by women or directors of color for the first time in history.

“Inclusion has been a priority of our guild for a very long time as we’ve pushed the studios, networks, and producers to do better in their hiring,” Directors Guild of America President Thomas Schlamme said in a statement. “While change had been glacial in past years, we’re pleased and incredibly encouraged to see the recent commitment undertaken by the industry.”

Also included in the report are the numbers of first-time directors. In the 2018-19 season, 227 directors who had never directed episodic television were hired for the first time. The percentage of these first breaks going to women directors hit a new record, while the percentage going to directors of color remained almost the same, but close to its highest level:

  • 49% of first-time hires in the 2018-19 season were women – an increase from 41% in the 2017-18 season, and 33% two seasons prior.
  • 29% of first-time hires were directors of color – down slightly from last year’s record of 31%, but up from the previous high of 27% two years ago.

Comparing figures for the 2018-19 season with 2017-18, this year’s report shows that:

  • The percentage of episodes directed by Caucasian males decreased from 57% to 50%;
  • The percentage of episodes directed by minority males increased from 17% to 19%;
  • The percentage of episodes directed by Caucasian females increased from 19% to 22%; and
  • The percentage of episodes directed by minority females increased from 6% to 8%.

Just five years ago, only 14% of U.S. television episodes were directed by women. As of last season’s statistics, men, regardless of ethnicity, made up 69% of all episodic directors last season, and Caucasians, regardless of gender, still made up 71% of all episodic directors.

African Americans directed 15% of the episodes during the 2018-19 season, up from 13% the previous year. Asian Americans directed 6% this year, the same as last year, and Latino’s also directed 6%, up from 5% the prior season. Caucasians directed 71% this year, down from 76% in the previous year.

For the report, the DGA examined over 4,300 episodes produced in the 2018-19 television season. That number was down from just over 4,400 episodes the season before and represents the second straight year that that number has declined following an all-time high of about 4,500 episodes in the 2016-17 season. According to the DGA’s analysis, the main drivers of the decrease include the ongoing decline in the number of basic cable dramatic series, coupled with the overall trend of short orders (fewer series episodes per season).