Women Behind Canadian TV: 2019 Edition


Change takes time. It’s often slow and it’s always a process. There are no quick fixes here, but it does happen. In fact, it is happening right now in Canadian television, as more and more women are getting opportunities in various behind the scenes positions. From directing episodes, editing and producing, to earning a spot in the writers’ room, more and more women are being staffed in all sorts of behind the scenes positions. Gone are the days where networks could hide or feign ignorance, thanks to the attention being brought to the need for diversity behind the scenes.

While the television industry definitely has a long way to go until true parity exists for both women and people of colour, it undoubtedly feels good to see more and more people getting their chance to be staffed behind the scenes. This isn’t to say that things are perfect by any means, but as we get set to kick off another round of our annual Women Behind Canadian TV series, there were some positive signs of change that could be seen versus when we examined statistics for scripted Canadian TV shows two years ago1.

The first evidence of a shift happening was how women in the Canadian TV industry performed at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards (CSA). Those nominees show Canada doing much better than the U.S. industry based upon the 2018 Emmy nominees. While awards don’t mean everything, they can be a good indication of what the pool the nominating committees are drawing from looks like. At 48%, women made up almost half of the writing and directing nominees at the CSAs versus only 13% of Emmy nominees.

Women most notably stood out in writing categories at the CSAs, making up over half of the nominees. In fact, seven of the 10 CSA nominees in writing for a drama series or limited series were women, as opposed to women only making up 16% of Emmy writing nominees. Always a historically low category, only two women were nominated in directing categories at the Emmys, where as the CSAs had six female nominees. Awards recognition allows winners and nominees to be showcased and have their work made known to a larger audience. Seeing so many women directors and writers nominated at the CSAs definitely felt satisfying for those of us keeping track at home.

The next logical question: does the increased number of women nominated at awards shows correlates to numbers being up overall for women in writing and directing? In order to find the answer to that, we examined the latest seasons of Canadian scripted television series from late 2017-18. When looking at the very top position on those shows, 63% of Canadian scripted shows were run by men, a number that is almost exactly the same as the 64% it was two years ago. However, the good news is women are getting more opportunities when it comes to writing and directing.

In the U.S., the Directors Guild of America reported record levels of employment for women earlier this year. They reported that 25% of episodic television was directed by women in the past TV season. The good news is, Canadian TV is doing an even better job. In the 273 episodes of scripted Canadian TV we examined2, 32% of the episodes were directed by women. That’s an improvement over the 23% that we found when we examined things two years ago.

Just as in the award nominations, things are even better and more promising when looking at women in writing. In the same 273 episodes, 49% of them were written by women. In fact, only one show, Vikings, had no episodes from the last season written by a woman, as creator Michael Hirst wrote all episodes.

While things are getting better and improving all the time, this certainly doesn’t mean that there’s not work to do. Committees such as the Writers Guild of Canada Diversity Committee look to support diverse screenwriters, while organizations such as BIPOC TV & Film are working to increase representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Canada’s TV and film industry. Many other organizations and initiatives, like Women in Film & Television, work to advance women in the industry and are committed to increasing diversity. Their work is just as important now as ever before.

Here at The TV Junkies, there is nothing that we love more than celebrating, honoring and highlighting women from all areas of TV production. We want to help keep these discussions of diversity going and keep drawing attention to the amazing women out there working hard at all levels of the industry. So we’re proud to announce another round of our Women Behind Canadian TV series in which we will speak with and highlight a whole new set of women.

So stayed tuned because we’ve got interviews with women from some of Canada’s top and most popular television shows. These women work in all areas of production and will share their experiences working in the industry, the positive changes they see happening and where work still needs to be done. In sharing their stories, we hope to keep the dialogue open as we keep working towards true gender equality and parity behind the scenes.

1. For the sake of transparency, all research and charts compiled for 2017 can be found in the spreadsheet located here.
2. All research and charts compiled for 2019 can be found in the spreadsheet located here.

Thoughts or comments? Share them below! Find all coverage of our Women Behind Canadian TV series here.