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Report: Hollywood film writers still white guy club

Aaron Sorkin Internal Reuters

Aaron Sorkin (REUTERS)

When it comes to being progressive, it seems the Hollywood screenwriting industry has a long way to go when it comes to gender and ethnic employment diversity. 

While the 2014 Hollywood Writers Report from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) West shows a slight increase in diversity in television jobs since the last report was published two years ago, there has been a decline in the number of women and minorities at the writing table for theatrical releases.

The report, which analyzed data from the 2011-2012 cable and broadcast TV schedule in addition to films brought to the big screen that year, centered on the employment trends of females, minority and older writers in comparison to their young while male counterparts. Entitled “Turning Missed Opportunities Into Realized Ones,” is the ninth in a series of reports commissioned by the guild.

According to the statistics already published in the report, which will be released in full in June, women make up 27 percent of television writing staffs and 15 percent in films, down from 17 percent in the previous report. They also make 77 cents per dollar in relation to the males, a drop for 82 cents in the 2011 study.

“Large Hollywood films are about large amounts of money. Hollywood films are dominated by white male writers in the same way that large corporations are dominated by white men. Enhancing the bottom line does not typically translate into ensuring fair representation among employees,” Dwight DeWerth-Pallmeyer, Ph.D. Director of Communication Studies at Widener University told FOX411.

According to Dominic Patten of entertainment industry trade Deadline.com, there is a lot of talk with little walk.

“Despite all the platitudes, good intentions and a few high profile individuals, women are still being shut out and underpaid in Hollywood,” he said. “In the writers' room, the director's chair and the executive boardroom - that's fact, not blockbuster fiction.”

The WGA-sponsored findings also noted that while minorities’ presence in the TV writing arena had a slight increase from 10 to 11 percent since the last published study, their employment in movies was much smaller – just 5 percent. That figure is unchanged from the last report, but down a percentage point from 2009.  

The most recent findings also concluded that the presence of “older writers” – aged between 21 and 50 – remains steady in both film and TV, but dips dramatically after the age of 60.

The study’s author Darnell M. Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and professor of sociology, noted that the outcomes concluded in the report stem from the way the entertainment industry is structured.  

“It has traditionally been run by white males, and when people get a shot at producing a TV show or making a movie, they tend to be very risk adverse in a competitive industry, and they tend to surround themselves with people they feel comfortable with. And what that means often is the people also look like them, think like them,” he explained. “It’s a vicious cycle where it’s hard to get experience, it’s hard to develop a track record if you’re not getting work, and the people who are monopolizing a lot of those opportunities tend to be white males. So that tends to have a negative impact on women, and certainly it impacts minorities.”  

But other media critics argue that Hollywood’s focus should not be on race and gender, but simply on who is the best fit for the task at hand.

“Hollywood is never as diverse as it pretends,” added Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Institute. “People go to see stars they like, not left-mandated diversity squads. America has many unique types of people and views and certainly Hollywood should try to represent that, but it should never embrace tokenism.”

Follow @holliesmckay on Twitter.

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