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UK Writers’ Guild calls commissioners to “let women tell their stories”

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) is calling on commissioners to hire more female writers after it was revealed that only 28% of TV episodes in the country are written by women and females make up 16% of all film screenwriters.

WGGB gathered data from over ten years aimed to uncover systematic gender inequality in the UK’s screen industries and in the duration commissions from female writers have “flatlined”, according to the report.

Figures found that 28% of all UK TV episodes between 2001-16 were predominantly female written and only 14% of primetime programming was predominantly female-written. There is particularly low representation of women in comedy (11%) and light entertainment (9%).

Furthermore, 11% of films were predominantly female-written, while 21% has at least one female writer.

The report emphasised that while there has been a lack of female writers represented in British television, some of the most commercially successful and critically well received TV prime-time drama and comedies over the last few years have been from women, “debunking any myth that female writers are not as successful.”

Examples include: Victoria (ITV, pictured) created and written by Daisy Goodwin; Call the Midwife (BBC) created and written by Heidi Thomas; Girlfriends (ITV) created and written by Kay Mellor and more. Other titles include Happy Valley, Three Girls, Ordeal by Innocence and Catastrophe.

WGGB chair Gail Renard said: “News flash! Women writers appear to have gone missing. Only 28% of television shows have been written by women over the past ten years. Even fewer if the women writers are audacious enough to want to write something other than soaps or children’s telly.

“The statistics get even worse for prime-time drama (14%) and comedy (11%.) It’s not bad enough there’s a glass ceiling for women in television. Now it turns out there are glass walls as well.

“All we’re asking for is a meritocracy for all writers regardless of gender, race, disabilities or class. Let us into the meetings. Read our pitches. Work with us. We all have glorious stories to tell. Let us tell them.”

As a result of the finding WGGB has launched the Equality Writes campaign, calling for immediate action to reverse the current trend. The campaign is supported by Sandi Toksvig, Jack Thorne, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Gaby Chiappe, Lucy Kirkwood and Katherine Ryan.

Earlier this year a group of 76 TV drama writers also signed an open letter of protest to UK broadcasters when ITV revealed that its drama slate for 2018 had only one female writer out of nine.

Speaking to producers earlier this year, TBI found that while a range of female producers feel represented in the UK, they still saw disparity when it came to women being represented as directors and writers.