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Study Says More Women in TV Jobs, but Hiring Still Done by Men

August 28, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Women have increased their presence in the television industry, but men continue to hold the powerful jobs that control hiring and program content, according to a new study.

The study, ″Prime Time Power,″ by the private National Commission on Working Women found that with just a few exceptions, women hold few producing, directing or writing jobs on top TV shows.

The group’s report likened the challenges facing women in the industry to ″scaling a snow-covered cliff.″

The study looked at producing, directing and writing jobs ″because these are the decision-makers that influence not only the content of a program but who gets hired in the rest of the jobs,″ Cindy Marano, executive director of the commission’s parent group, Wider Opportunities for Women, said in an interview Thursday.

The commission tallied the number of women in six jobs - executive producer, supervising producer, producer, co-producer, writer and director - on 10 randomly selected episodes of each of the 20 highest-rated prime-time programs of the 1986-87 season. Among the findings were:

-″My Sister Sam″ had the highest percentage of female producers, directors and writers and was the only program in which the executive producer slot, which is sometimes a shared position, was solely female.

-″LA Law″ and ″Dynasty″ were the only other programs with women working in all three categories: producers, directors and writers.

-On three programs - ″The Cosby Show,″ ″Falcon Crest″ and ″Dynasty″ - women shared executive producer credits with men. Nine shows had women working as some kind of producer.

-Fourteen of the 20 shows had no women directors during the episodes monitored, but 17 had at least one female writer.

Though the study did not analyze the content of the programs, Marano said she believes the portrayal of women improves when women work on a show.

″It is interesting in ‘My Sister Sam’ that you have a woman running her own business, she has hired other women and is a strong role model for her sister. In ‘LA Law’ you see women working in all positions in the law firm and their characters are developed,″ Marano said.

″We’re quite sure that wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t so many women″ working in key positions on the programs, she said.

The Washington-based commission is a national women’s employment organization that has been analyzing portrayals of women on TV since 1982.