Study: Number of Black and Asian Women on TV Reaches Recent Historical High
As the 2017–2018 television season gears up, you’re probably looking forward to the return of your favorite shows as well as planning to check out some new series. We have some good news to help kick off the new TV season, courtesy of Dr. Martha Lauzen and the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University: there has been a small but significant increase in the number of women on the small screen. The numbers of black female and Asian female characters on broadcast TV have risen to recent historical highs.
“Boxed In 2016–17: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in Television,” Lauzen’s annual report on the state of gender equality — or lack thereof — in TV, summarizes the “content analysis of 4,109 characters and 4,310 behind-the-scenes credits on dramas, comedies, and reality programs appearing on the broadcast networks, basic and pay cable channels, and streaming services in 2016–17.” This is the 20th year Lauzen has conducted the “Boxed In” study.
“While most of the gains are modest, the widespread nature of the increases is striking,” Lauzen said of the report’s findings.
As mentioned, black women represented 21 percent of the 2016–17 onscreen characters on broadcast TV, as opposed to 17 percent in 2015–2016. Asian women comprised seven percent of onscreen characters, up from 2015–16’s five percent. In fact, “Boxed In” found that “across platforms, programs are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.” Black women in speaking roles represented 19 percent of all female roles, a three percent increase from the year before. Asian women made up six percent of all female characters, as compared to four percent in 2015–16. And the number of Latina characters rose to five percent in 2016–17, as opposed to 2015–16’s four percent.