Introducing our Women Behind Canadian TV Series

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Well ladies, we may be the target audience demo for TV networks–(we do make up the majority of viewing audiences and are in charge of household disposable incomes, after all)–but it seems that we’re still far from being well-represented when it comes to key behind-the-scenes positions. Sure, gender equality awareness both on- and off-screen have increased, but a recent study shows that in actuality the number of women holding prominent positions such as directors, producers and writers in Canadian television is still far too low.

What gives?

It’s been almost a year since Writers Guild of Canada President Jill Golick called for gender equality in television writing rooms, and while it would seem like awareness and talk of equality has gone up, the reality of the lack of women actually holding notable positions continues. While it’s been reported that over the last year women were responsible for only 34 per cent of the writing credits on Canadian television series, if we take a closer look there’s definitely some rays of hope for the future.

I examined 17 of Canada’s scripted dramas that aired during 20151 and found that seven of them had 50 per cent or more of their episodes written or co-written by a woman, most notably the dearly departed Strange Empire at 100 per cent and Rookie Blue at 74 per cent. Another Canadian show with a majority of its episodes written by women was Lost Girl (coming in at 56 per cent)2, but with all three of these shows now off the air, the diversity gap seems to widen even more and the question becomes, how do we fill it?

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A likely place to start is at the top. If more women are placed into showrunner positions then, according to a recent U.S. study, 50 per cent more women would be placed on their writing staffs as opposed to the 15 per cent for shows that have a male creator. But in examining those same scripted Canadian dramas, 52 per cent of them are strictly run by or created by a male. In fact, only 26 per cent of those I looked at had a female-only creator or showrunner. So while Canadian TV definitely has women in some high profile showrunning positions–Michelle Lovretta of Killjoys, Daegan Fryklind of Bitten and Emily Andras on the upcoming Wynonna Earp to name a few–there’s still plenty of work to be done in that area as well.

I can sit here and rattle off similar type stats for hours, and even reveal some pretty interesting ones–such as the fact that CBC’s Heartland has been on the air for nine years and women have had a hand in writing 65 per cent of the episodes–or others that are downright shocking–like how neither Vikings or Dark Matter had a single episode written or co-written by a woman–but once the shock factor and watercooler talk stops what are we left with? What comes next and what steps can be taken?

Sadly, in most cases the answer is that we just move on and get back to work, but that can’t be acceptable any longer if we expect the gap between men and women to shrink. That’s why here at The TV Junkies we want to keep the dialogue open and the discussion moving forward because while there’s a vast need for improvement and much work still to be done, there are also some television shows and production companies out there that are getting things right. What’s their secret? What do they know that others don’t and how can we get the television industry as a whole to follow their mode of operation?

By talking to the women who hold these prominent positions behind the scenes in Canadian television, and getting their thoughts and insights on the diversity issue, we are hoping to shed a light on and gain insight into what can be done to bridge the gender gap even further. How can we do this? Stay tuned here at The TV Junkies for our upcoming series of interviews with women who’ve broken through the gender gap. This will include talks with showrunners, producers, directors and writers of some of Canada’s most prominent television shows. They will share their experiences, how diversity plays a role in their day to day jobs and what they’d envision for the future of television. These women have come a long way, but hopefully by hearing and sharing their stories we can be one step closer to shattering through that glass ceiling.

1. CBC’s This Life and The Romeo Section weren’t counted because they just premiered in October 2015.
2. For the sake of transparency, all research and charts compiled by me can be found in the spreadsheet located here.

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