Inch by inch, female TV writers and directors come closer to Emmy parity with males

Inclusion and parity are all the rage right now — a process that has been long in coming and is far from over — but creating an equal environment among colleagues in the entertainment industry isn’t as easy as it might seem. That includes the Emmy candidates for directing and writing. Actors are traditionally divided by gender, but not so with the other categories.

As Frank Scherma, chairman and CEO of the television academy, remarked before host Leslie Jones kicked off the virtual socially-distanced reading of the nominees, “This year we are also bearing witness to one of the greatest fights for social justice in history, and it is our duty to use this medium for change. That is the power and responsibility of television — not only delivering a multitude of services or a little escapism, but also amplifying the voices that must be heard and telling the stories that must be told. Because television, by its very nature, connects us all.”

But the fight for inclusion is far from over, as these numbers have ticked up but are still far from parity. Much work still has to be done in directing and writing categories.

Let’s start with the directors. Among the comedy list, only two women — Amy Sherman-Palladino (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and Gail Mancuso (“Modern Family”) — squeezed into the lineup that featured six males. The drama category was slightly better with three females represented behind the camera: Jessica Hobbs (“The Crown”), Mimi Leder (“The Morning Show”) and Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”). They were scattered amidst five men.

In the limited series, movie or dramatic special contest, four women candidates outranked three men: the late Lynn Shelton (“Little Fires Everywhere”), Maria Schrader (“Unorthodox”) and Nicole Kassell and Steph Green (both “Watchmen”). As for variety series direction, the Emmy voters made history by nominating the first Black woman, Dime Davis (“A Black Lady Sketch Show”), in the category. She was joined by one other female,  Linda Mendoza (“Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready”). The rest of the lineup featured five males. As for directing for a variety special, one lone woman sneaked in, Pamela Fryman for “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Good Times.'”

As for documentary/nonfiction programs, three women found a spot alongside five men: Julia Reichert (“American Factory”),  Nadia Hallgren (“Becoming”) and Rebecca Chaiklin (“Tiger King”). Last but least, the reality program nominees were all of the male persuasion. All in all, out of 47 names in all seven directing categories, slightly less than a third were female.

As for writers, among the 40 names nominated for drama, comedy, movie/limited, variety special, documentary and nonfiction, only 13 women were included, making up almost a third. The movie/limited race is where the most female talent showed up with six of the nine nominees being women. They are Tanya Barfield (“Mrs. America”), Sally Rooney and Alice Birch (“Normal People”), Susannah Grant and Ayelet Waldman (“Unbelievable”) and Anna Winger (“Unorthodox”).

It likely will take more than a couple more ceremonies before there is a level playing field. But at least there appears to be some progress afoot.

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