Diversity

What is the Diversity Committee?

The need for greater diversity in the entertainment industry is clear: according to the 2018 Bunche Center Hollywood Diversity Report and the WGAW Hollywood Writers Report and TV Staffing Brief, minorities are still woefully underrepresented throughout the industry.

The WGAE is committed to addressing these inequities head-on in order to bring meaningful changes to the state of representation in the industry, and our Diversity Committee is an integral and central part of this commitment.

The Diversity Committee focuses on improving writing opportunities for women and people of color in the entertainment industry. To achieve this goal, the Committee is working to improve communication with diverse Guild members, and generate ideas for creating new opportunities.

The Diversity Committee prioritizes strengthening the Guild’s partnerships with organizations like the Kaitz Foundation, the National Association of Black Journalists, The Black List, Lady Parts Justice and New York Women in Film and Television. Efforts are also under way to expand collaboration with other entertainment unions in order to explore new and better ways to reach out to diverse members.

Current Committee Members

  • Chairs: Courtney Simon & Judy Tate
  • Henry Bean
  • Phil Pilato
  • Angie Day
  • Cristine Chambers 
  • Kathy McGee
  • Lara Shapiro
  • Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
  • Maria Agui-Carter
  • Susan Kim
  • Kaitlin Fontana
  • Rashidi Hendrix
  • Melissa Hilfers
  • Jeremy Pikser
  • Theresa Rebeck
  • Louis Venosta
  • Tracey Scott Wilson

Diversity Statistics

  • Of the credited writers of top theatrical films in 2016, only 8.1% were people of color and only 13.8% were women
  • In television, the overall female share of credited writers for broadcast scripted shows in 2015-16 was 35.2%, while the share held by people of color was 15.5%.
  • (Source: UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, 2018)

Diversity Programs, Initiatives, & Resources

Programs & Initiatives

Throughout the year, the Guild sponsors numerous events which highlight projects made by women and people of color, provide an in-depth focus on the issues impacting underrepresented groups, and emphasize importance of diversity—many of which are co-sponsored by the Diversity Committee. Recent events include “Black People, Mass Incarceration and the Power of Storytelling”; “Repro Writes: Abortion on TV Needs More Choices”; seasonal Inter-Guild Diversity Coalition Mixers and Women of the Guilds Mixers, and more.

Diversity Bills

Since 2010, the WGAE has been working to pass a landmark TV diversity bill in New York State. The bill, which is supported by the WGAE and the Directors Guild of America (DGA), would provide a tax incentive for hiring women and people of color to write and direct television in New York. The legislation, which borrows from existing state law that addresses historic inequities in other parts of the state economy, is the first of its kind in the nation. The Diversity Committee has been active in lobbying and advocating for passage of the tax credit.

The bill passed both the New York State Assembly and the Senate in June 2017, and was sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk in December. Though the bill was vetoed by Governor Cuomo in December 2017, the Guild and the Diversity Committee continue to press for legislative actions that will create meaningful change in our industry.

Made In New York Writers Room

In the Fall of 2016, the WGAE partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to launch the Made in New York Writers Room. The MINY Writers Room is a six-month fellowship program which provides intensive support to writers of diverse backgrounds in New York City through trainings, programs, and dedicated mentorship from established New York City-based showrunners.

The MINY Writers Room fellowship provides an opportunity for emerging writers to learn what it takes to succeed in the industry here in New York City, and to receive feedback on their works in progress from esteemed industry professionals. Participants also receive additional professional development opportunities and industry feedback, with the goal of developing an original drama or comedy pilot ready for production at the end of the fellowship period.

During the pilot year of the program, the Guild accepted twelve writers—applying either as an individual or a writing team of two—through a competitive application process. The fellows were mentored by leading television showrunners including Sarah Treem (The Affair), Beau Willimon (House of Cards), Julie Martin (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), and Richard LaGravenese (The Divide).

Find more information on the MINY Writers Room Fellowship here.

Resources

The Writers Guild of America, East offers several resources related to fostering diversity:

Writers’ Training Program
Under Article 38(f) of the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), employers may establish training programs for underrepresented writers and pay them at reduced rates.

Hollywood Writers Report & TV Staffing Brief
Commissioned by the Writers Guild of America, West, the Hollywood Writers Report and the TV Staffing Brief provide an update on the progress of women, minority, and older writers on the employment and earnings fronts.

Industry Diversity Writing Programs, Conferences, and Festivals
This list is provided for informational purposes only. A program’s inclusion does not, in and of itself, indicate endorsement by the Writers Guild of America, East or West.
As is true in many industries, the barrier to entry for writers who belong to underrepresented communities can sometimes be insurmountable. This list provides a directory of industry programs, conferences, and festivals focused on inclusion and equity. You may access the list here.

Digital Media – Industry-Wide Diversity Initiatives
Employees at digital news sites who have unionized with the Writers Guild have done so for a number of reasons, but diversity is an issue that workers across all sites seek to address. Union contracts address a broad range of issues, from pay equity to parental leave policies to workplace “culture” issues (like diversity). Many unionized sites have active initiatives around diversity and have established workplace diversity committees. Read more about organizing around diversity in digital news.

Sexual Harassment Resource Guide
The Diversity Committee’s mission is to address and remedy the profound imbalance of power in the entertainment industry. Addressing and combating sexual harassment is a vital part of achieving that mission. The WGAE has prepared this guide as a part of our review of the steps we can take as a union to address the issue of sexual harassment and protect our members. Read the Sexual Harassment Resource Guide.

The WGAE is committed to addressing these inequities head-on in order to bring meaningful changes to the state of representation in the industry, and our Diversity Committee is an integral and central part of this commitment.

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