A Brief History of Women DGA Directors: The Past 30 Years


Edited by Maria Giese

UCLA’s “Center for the Study of Women” published “Liberating Hollywood: Thirty Years of Women Directors” by Maya Montañez Smukler, Ph.d. which chronicles the past 30-year history of women directors in the DGA and their courageous struggle to convince the Guild to help change their dismal employment numbers. 

In 1983, the DGA launched a class-action lawsuit on their behalf against three major studios.  This action was essential to moving the percentage of women director employment from less than 1% in 1985 to 16% in 1995.

The following excerpted article involved dozens of hours of interviews with the very women directors who spearheaded the extraordinary change in gender employment ratios that came in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. 

Unfortunately, momentum slowed and after 1995 the ratio of female director employment went into stasis.  Today, less than 5% of feature films and only 12% of television episodes are directed by women.



by Maya Montañez Smukler, Ph.d.

“The 1970s was a crucial decade for women directors working in Hollywood as it marked a period of significant increase in their employment statistics compared to previous decades. Between the early 1930s up until the late 1960s, there was never more than one woman making commercially oriented movies in Hollywood or within the independent film communities adjacent to the studio system.

By the late 1960s and increasingly—ever so gradually—throughout the 1970s the number of women directing feature films grew.  Between 1966 and 1980 there were an estimated fifteen women who had made feature films targeting commercial audiences, either within the studio system or as independent filmmakers.

Throughout the 1970s the feminist movement impacted the entertainment industry in various ways influencing Hollywood’s own political consciousness-raising. On-screen the women’s movement and its objective of female autonomy were represented by characterizations and narrative themes in several kinds of movies including critically acclaimed studio films (most directed by men) such as Klute (1971, dir. Alan J. Pakula), Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974, dir. Martin Scorsese) and Unmarried Woman (1978, dir. Paul Mazursky).

Off-screen, myriad female industry employees formed various kinds of networking organizations. For instance, Women in Film, a non-political association created by established women in the industry, was formed in 1973; and in 1974 the American Film Institute, a mainstream conservatory for a new generation of filmmakers, still run by an old-guard Hollywood patriarchy, founded the Directing Workshop for Women, a hands-on program that trained individual women to become film and television directors.

Several professional guilds, such as the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Screen Writers Guild (SAG), and Writers Guild of America (WGA), were  significant in projecting the influences of the feminist movement in the United States on the film and television industries during this period by involvement with sexual and racial discrimination within equal employment debates.

Advocating for their female constituents both the WGA and SAG each formed their own Women’s Committees in 1972. From 1974 to 1976, both guilds compiled statistical surveys that explicitly documented the disfranchisement of their women members; often linking the data to a specific studio, network and in several cases individual television shows. These efforts were spearheaded by the two organizations’ individual Women’s Committees, which the press reported on widely.

The WGA addressed the low numbers of women writers working in film and television, and SAG called for improved roles for actresses. More reticent than its colleagues in matters of public activism, the DGA was late to the era’s feminist awareness not making a concerted effort to address the low employment numbers of its female directors until the very end of the 1970s.

While the DGA was slow to organize within its membership ranks around issues of employment discrimination, ultimately the Guild’s involvement extended beyond just press coverage and into the court of law.

At the end of the decade, in 1979, the DGA Women’s Committee was formed. Original members of the Committee were Susan Bay, Nell Cox, Janet Davidson, Joelle Dobrow, Cheryl Downey, Pat Eyerman, Dolores Feraro, Anne Goodall, Nancy Heydorn, Victoria Hochberg, Ann Kindbery, Valeria Kircher, Flora Lang, Lynne Litman, Lisa Rich, Susan Smitman, Leslie Waldman.  Composed of award-winning television, documentary, and feature-film directors, the group was formed because of mounting frustration with their inability to get hired within the industry.

Determined to assess their current employment status, the Committee was granted permission from the Guild to examine decades of employment records of studios, networks, and leading independent production companies. Between 1949 and 1979, according to the Committee’s findings, 7,332 feature films were made and released by major distributors. Fourteen—0.19 percent–were directed by women.

These statistics were given to the media to draw attention to tangible evidence of sexism within the industry and to show specific percentages of women hired (or not hired at all in some cases) at individual companies, studios, and television shows.

On June 18, 1980, as a consequence of the DGA Women’s Committee’s actions in publicly addressing industry sexism thirty-two executives from prominent production companies, television networks and film studios agreed to meet with more than one hundred members of the DGA Women’s Committee.

Industry representatives included Barry Diller, chairman of the board and CEO, Paramount; Ned Tanen, president, Universal Pictures; Frank Wells, president and co-CEO, Warner Bros.; Steve Bochco, MTM’s Hill Street Blues; James Brooks, executive producer, John Charles Walters Productions; and programming representatives from ABC, CBS, and NBC.

The Committee introduced affirmative-action quota recommendations for studios and networks: for every thirteen television episodes contracted, producers were requested to hire at least one woman director.  However, eight months later, discussions between the two sides had fallen apart.

Aljean Harmetz, writing for the New York Times in February of 1981, reported that “according to the guild’s complaint, each employer ‘unilaterally withdrew’ from a voluntary affirmative-action program.’” Each side staunchly opposed the others’ stance on affirmative-action quotas.

Michael Franklin, executive director of the Guild at the time, explained that: ‘the DGA was forced into the suit because of Columbia’s [and Warner Bros.] refusal to negotiate…based on a system of numerical goals and timetables.’

In response, Columbia released a press release stating that ‘despite [the studios] expressed willingness to continue  negotiations…the Guild refused to…unless Columbia acquiesced in imposing quotas as to the numbers of women and members of minority groups to hired.’

While the DGA used statistical evidence documenting the low number of women and minorities actually hired by the studios to justify their demands for the usage of such programs, both film companies held the Guild responsible for those low numbers.

Warner Bros. and Columbia cited culpability in the DGA contract which set certain provisions that controlled the hiring process supposedly making it difficult for the studios to access female and minority job candidates.

As a result of this impasse, in 1983 the DGA filed a class-action lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California alleging discriminatory hiring practices towards women and racial minorities: against Warner Bros. on July 25 and against Columbia Pictures on December 21.

In 1985, Judge Pamela Rymer ruled in favor of Columbia and Warner Bros., and effectively against the DGA.  She stated that the Guild was partially responsible for the small amount of women and minority film and television directors hired due to the way in which the organization’s contract perpetuated the ‘old boys’ club’ and ‘word of mouth’ hiring practices by stipulating that directors could choose their Assistant Directors and Unit Production Managers.

Although technically a failure, the DGA lawsuit against Columbia and Warner Bros. was significant regarding women directors in two ways. Primarily, that it was the first time that the DGA, an influential and reputable organization, had taken legal action on behalf of their female membership. Never had such attention been drawn to female directors within the industry.

Furthermore, it was an uncharacteristic gesture made by an industry organization that was not known for taking overt political positions informed by potentially controversial issues such as feminism, sexism and racism. As DGA member Lynne Littman said in the press before the case was lost:

‘The important thing about the action the guild is taking now is that it is being taken by the whole guild, not by the women’s committee. The guild is not a notoriously radical organization, and their support for us is a major advance.’

Second, speculation as to why the DGA would take such a drastic action as filing a class action suit against two major studios without precedent set in the Guild’s history suggests an effort at self-protection.

In a recent interview with me, retired DGA member Barbara Peeters, who belonged to the Women’s Committee during the 1980s and at the time of these legal battles, suggested that the Guild made those aggressive demands of the film companies in an effort to prevent their female members from accusing them of similar acts of gender discrimination.

The Guild preferred to sue the studios rather than be sued for sexism by its own associates. Ten years after the filing of the suit, Michael Franklin described the impact of the case on the Guild in a positive light:

‘Prior to 1978, the Guild had an image of a gentlemen’s club. It didn’t make waves. The lawsuit improved the Guild’s status because the industry recognized that not only did the DGA represent important creative elements within the industry, but it was a strong force for the positive improvement of society as well!’

Three decades later, accepting her Oscar last year, Kathryn Bigelow described to the audience how “this was the moment of a lifetime.” This statement is surely true for any filmmaker winning their first Academy Award. The hope for many, and no doubt the founders of the DGA Women’s Committee in 1979, is that it wouldn’t take so many lifetimes to arrive at such a moment.”

Read the entire article:  www.csw.ucla.edu

Maya Montañez Smukler, Ph.d., UCLA Cinema and Media Studies.  She is co-editor-in-chief of Mediascape, UCLA’s on-line media studies journal, and has been a part-time faculty member of the New School University’s Film and Media Studies department since 2002.

DGA Women: Memory Lane is Heartbreaking

Edited by Maria Giese


The following excerpted article, written by Nancy Mills for “The LA Times”  in 1986, puts into perspective the struggle of women directors in Hollywood during the past 30 years.

Though Michael Franklin (then Executive Director of the DGA), lamented in 1986 that little had changed in the year following the 1983-1985 DGA discrimination lawsuit against three major studios, the next 10 years would see a steep rise in the employment of women directors from less than 1% to 16% in 1995.

Unfortunately, in the nearly 20 years from 1995 to 2013, those numbers have sadly fallen– less than 5% women directing feature films and just 12% to 14% women directing episodic TV.

We women at “Women Directors: Navigating the Boys’ Club” hope that this glance back down memory lane will encourage a revival of new action toward getting women directors back on the path toward equality.


By Nancy Mills – The Los Angeles Times – November 17, 1986

“In 1980, statistics gathered by six women members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) confirmed (…) that in the past 30 years, women had directed fewer than 1% of all major feature films and prime-time television. Specifically: Of 7,332 pictures, women directed 14; of 65,500 hours of television programming, women directed 115 hours.

Along with those bleak figures, the DGA Women’s Committee also presented to entertainment industry power brokers a detailed affirmative-action proposal for getting more women “tracked into the main talent pool of working directors.” The years since have seen lawsuits, networking, seminars, studies and conferences dedicated to increasing access for women into the prestigious guild…

…There are definitely more women directors at work today than ever before–on major projects in film and television. Women directors are an emerging minority. At the same time, conversations on the subject throughout the industry tend toward a good news/bad news pattern. Some sample observations:

“Those women who are working, by and large, seem to be doing reasonably well,” acknowledged Eileen Carhart, who along with Michealene Cristini and Thompson O’Sullivan co-chairs the DGA Women’s Steering Committee. “But there are not enough women working.”

–“I remember the (1980) meeting when those women revealed those embarrassing, shameful statistics,” producer Norman Lear reflected. “But then everybody went back to work, and I never saw any evidence of improvement.”

–“On balance, I’m satisfied that since our efforts commenced in 1978, progress has been made by women in gaining employment as directors,” said Michael Franklin, executive director of the DGA. “I am disappointed that our litigation a few years ago on behalf of women and minorities was not successful, but it, too, played a part in moving forward our goals for equal employment opportunities for women.”

–“The average person is no longer opposed to women directors,” said DGA President Gilbert Cates. “Ten years ago, the majority of studio executives questioned the ability of a woman to direct a film. Today, you’d have to dig deep in the barrel to find a fool to say that. That attitude has been put to rest.

“But the numbers are still disappointing. There’s no doubt that in relation to population, the number of women directing is very low. But I’m pleased to say that the awareness of the work of women directors is very high.”

–‘Women are now going on to direct second and third features,” noted Eileen Carhart of the DGA Women’s Steering Committee.

“That’s different, even from the early 1980s. But it’s misleading to extend that same kind of positive growth to all the women working or not working in this industry.”

The last six years undeniably have seen a lot of consciousness-raising in the entertainment industry, and conversations on the subject of women’s access tend to center around questions of socialization of attitudes as well as power structures.

Just wanting to direct isn’t enough, insists Richard Donner (“Superman,” “Ladyhawke,” “Goonies”). “In the past, I’m sure women directors were kept down,” he says while directing a helicopter scene in the upcoming “Lethal Weapon,” a buddy-buddy cop picture starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.

“Twenty years ago it was brutal for all minorities. But over the last 10 years, if people wanted to direct, they did it. So many people sit back with the excuse, ‘I’m not working because I’m black or I’m Italian or I’m a woman.’ My feeling is there’s been the desire but maybe not the energy put in by women.”

“Directing has always been kind of a boy’s club, like most things in America,” Ned Tanen, president of the Paramount Motion Picture Group, believes. “I don’t perceive this problem as being about this business. It’s a subtext of American culture: ‘You raise the kids, you take care of the house, dear. I’ll go out and kill the bear.’

“It’s as if this is the Middle Ages or the period of the suffragettes. I keep thinking we don’t talk about these things anymore. And when we start talking about them, I say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re still playing this game.’ ”

Tanen’s view of women directing in Hollywood: “Earlier, there physically weren’t that many women remotely equipped to direct because they hadn’t been allowed to get into that position. But now the lid is off. It certainly is here. We’re really trying.”

But old attitudes die hard. Directing has been traditionally regarded as a man’s job, complete with boots, riding whip and bullhorn. “The kind of strength needed to direct has nothing to do with brute force,” Norman Lear emphasizes. “It has to do with strength of character. A deeper voice does not a director make.”

Lear talks in terms of individuals, rather than male/female–an approach women welcome. They object to being lumped together as representatives of their gender. “When it’s a woman, they move it into a generalization,” complains Phyllis Geller, a top KCET executive and a former president of Women in Film (a group of professional women who work in the film and television industries).

“Women have to do twice as well to achieve the same thing. We do give each other a bad name if we don’t do good work. If one woman causes trouble, the next five will have problems.”

In some industries, lawsuits have been successful in improving women’s positions. But many consider the entertainment industry to be unique. “A corporate mentality will respond to affirmative action, but a creative mentality won’t,” suggests Deborah Aal, president of the Leonard Goldberg Co.

Dawn Steel, president of production at Paramount, dismisses the thought of lawsuits. “It’s about talent, not lawsuits,” she says. “I don’t want to be in the position where I thought I got the job because I was a woman. No other woman wants to be in that position either.”

The DGA did try litigation. After the 1980 statistics were made public, the DGA encouraged production companies to adopt voluntary affirmative-action programs. It also attempted, unsuccessfully, to get producers to agree to having one out of every 13 TV episodes directed by a woman.

In 1983, when it was felt that little progress had been made, the DGA filed class-action lawsuits against Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures, alleging discrimination in the companies’ hiring of women and ethnic minorities represented by the guild.

In August, 1985, the cases were dismissed. In brief, Judge Pamela Rymer ruled on counter-claims filed by the two studios. The studios argued that the DGA contract gives directors the right to select the first assistant director, and the first assistant the right to select the second assistant.”

WD/NBC is grateful to Nancy Mills and the LA Times. Drawings by Daniel Dejean.



American Women Directors & the DGA


By Maria Giese, cialis MFA

In 1979, help there were very few women director members of the Guild— and they weren’t getting much work.  So six distinguished women director members (including recipients of a Peabody, an Oscar, and an Emmy nomination), who could not get hired, decided to ask the Guild how many women were actually getting directing jobs.

Luckily, that year the Guild had computerized their data system, and when the six women asked for and received those files, they pored over them for the next twelve months.  What they learned was disturbing: the employment numbers for women directors was just ½ of 1%. They presented the results of their research to Michael Franklin, then National Executive Secretary of the DGA.  He agreed that something had to be done.

The six directors then formed the Director’s Guild “Women’s Committee.”  The following year, they invited women of all guild categories to join.  During the next two years, from
1981 to 1983, Michael Franklin tried to get the studios and TV production companies to improve the hiring of women DGA members.  The Guild, in conjunction with the Women’s Committee, set up meeting after meeting to encourage production companies to interview women members; they circulated directors’ reels, discussed possible ‘set-asides’ (a specific number of directing slots for women)– all to no avail.

The studios and production companies were intransigent.  After one final attempt, when none of the invited executives showed up for a scheduled meeting, which included coffee and an inordinate number of Danish pastries, Franklin, fed up, made his historic decision. It was time to sue.

That event was dubbed “The Danish Debacle.”

In 1983, Ronald Reagan was president.  The Guild went to work.  It hired a law firm and expanded the suit to include ethnic minorities.  The named defendants were Columbia Pictures, Paramount, and Warner Bros studios.  Almost immediately, other studios and production companies began to find that heretofore unqualified women and minorities were suddenly stellar candidates for jobs; the hiring statistics for women and minorities began to climb.

In the interim, President Reagan had nominated Judge Pamela Rymer to a seat on the United States District Court for the Central District of California.  Though class action suits against police and fire departments, for instance, were common at the time, the film business was, and is, a strange combination of art and commerce.  There are no qualifying tests for directors.  Traits that might define a director are amorphous and subjective.

The Guild itself, through the hiring of assistant directors by directors, was now scrutinized using the same standards that applied to less “creative” professions.  The astonishing and ironic result was that in 1985, Judge Rymer disqualified the DGA from representing its women and minority members class certification on the grounds that some of the Guild’s own policies put it in conflict with the very interests of the women and minority plaintiffs on whose behalf the Guild had filed the lawsuit in the first place.

Judge Rymer’s ruling prohibited the Guild from proceeding with the case, but change had begun.  In the next ten years, employment of female Guild members rose to almost 16%. Regrettably, the change did not last.  In thirty years the industry has grown, and so has the Guild, yet the ratio of working women directors in the DGA has not advanced at the same pace, in fact the numbers have declined.  The numbers are so appalling that they infer violations of our nation’s basic civil rights and equal employment laws.

Is that a problem?

America’s extraordinary influence in the world is due largely to a prolific entertainment industry that provides more media content to the world than any other country.  While media is our most influential export, however, it comes almost exclusively from the perspective of male directors.  The ratios are staggering: according to recent DGA statistics, 95% of feature films are directed by men, and just 5% by women.  Episodic TV is nearly as bad, with the male-to-female ratio of working directors at 85% to 15%.

Why is the gender gap so blatant?  Why have women directors experienced so little progress in so many decades?  Why does gender disparity remain, year after year?

Let’s consider some good news…

In 2009, President Obama passed the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” and in 2013 is making equality for women an important goal of his administration.  Military women have successfully challenged the “Combat Exclusion Rule” against the Department of Defense. Women are playing a pivotal role in American politics, holding more seats in the Senate, Congress, and House than ever before in American history.  This year, thanks to Keri Putnam, Sundance achieved parity for women director participants in feature competition for the first time ever.  And now, in 2013, we women in the Directors Guild of America are pressing for equity.

It is time…

Ending discrimination against women directors is vital to establishing a society of equality and diversity of perspective.  It is of paramount importance that the film and television content we export represents male and female perspectives equally.

If women are not directing film and television content, half of the voices of the American population are silenced and half the visions are suppressed.  It is not just basic fairness and the validity of the female point of view around the world that gives this issue such immediacy.  If we as a nation are to maintain a moral upper hand in geopolitical affairs, we must start by obeying our own laws protecting equality.

U.S. laws are in place for equal employment for women in our industry. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII states:

“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to (…) sex.”

And the DGA and the studios have several excellent agreements in place.  The DGA Basic Agreement has a section on Diversity— Article 15— a non-discrimination policy which states:

“The parties mutually reaffirm their policy of non-discrimination in the employment or treatment of any Employee because of (…) sex.  The Employer shall make good faith efforts to increase the number of (…) women Directors.”

The DGA and producer signatories also have a very clear agreement documented in “The Freelance Live and Tape Television Agreement” (FLTTA), Article 19.  It reads:

“The parties (DGA & amp; Producer signatories) mutually reaffirm their policy of non-discrimination in the employment or treatment of any Employee because of (…) sex.”

The problem with these agreements is that they are not being effectively complied with by the studios and producer signatories.  The DGA entity charged with acting as the intermediary for the Guild in overseeing studio compliance of these agreements is the “DGA Diversity Task Force.”

Co-chairs and members of the “Diversity Task Force” are appointed by the president of the Guild.  Unless an appointed member happens to be a diversity committee co-chair, they have no direct relationship to the diversity committees, nor are they required to communicate with diversity members in any formalized manner.

The current Guild leadership strongly believes that Guild governance should be comprised only of working directors, but where the Diversity Task Force is concerned, a conflict of interest seems inherent. How can it be in the interest of highly-employed directors to apply pressure to the very studios who employ them to direct their TV shows on a regular basis?  Perhaps a rule should be put in place that the studios may not hire the directors who negotiate with them on behalf of DGA diversity members.

Another problem with studio adherence to DGA-studio agreements is the use of the legal term “Good Faith Efforts” which suggest that the studios will fairly and honestly attempt to hire more women.  In order to make a legal case that the studios are not fulfilling their promise, women would need clear physical and anecdotal evidence to prove a studio’s intentional malice in preventing women from being employed.

“Best Efforts,” on the other hand, is a much more onerous legal term and could do more to ensure that the studios fulfill their agreements to hire more women.  The studios would be weighted with the burden of proof to demonstrate they are indeed making real and significant efforts to hire more women.

A further problem in ameliorating the under-employment of DGA women lies in a disconnect between the Women’s Steering Committee and the Guild.  The Women’s Steering Committee was created to help women members increase their employment opportunities, but there is no functional mechanism to funnel goals or proposals from the Women’s Steering Committee into a higher DGA council.  A mode of official communication between the WSC and the DGA’s higher bodies of governance is simply not in place.

Potentially worsening the situation, this year the DGA National Board and the DGA executive staff requested that each diversity committee accept new by-laws that would deny leadership to any member who does not fulfill the “Working in the Trade” rule, meaning they have not worked 30 days in the past 7 years.

These new by-laws threaten to compromise the committees by moving them away from their original intent and curtailing the members’ freedom of speech, as they create several obstacles to democratic process and fair election policies for leadership. It is very important that we examine the proposed new laws immediately with this concern in mind.  The by-laws are intended to be enacted in April 2013.

What has the DGA been doing to solve the problem?

Over the years, the DGA, in conjunction with the studios, has experimented with a number of diversity programs the hopes of improving employment statistics for women members the Guild.  These programs include networking events, episodic TV shadowing fellowships, mentoring, panels, and education.

The programs are important to the maintenance of reciprocal good will between the DGA and the studios, but they have not yet increased employment opportunities for women DGA members.

So how can an epoch of parity for women directors begin?

Within the European Commission, right now, there is a powerful effort being made to force gender parity within European companies, mandating that a 40% minimum of women be included on corporate boards of directors.  This proposal comes with sanctions and penalties for violations in the case that corporations fail to comply.  If gender balance is of such acute concern on corporate boards, it most certainly should be an issue of immediacy in the American entertainment industry.

The DGA points its finger at the studios and the studios point their fingers at the DGA. Each shifts the blame to the other, and each responds with frustration to the suggestion that nothing is actually being done. While the responsibility of gender parity among directors ultimately falls to America’s film studios and other producing entities that actually do the hiring, the labor organization that must initiate crucial change is the one whose primary responsibility is to represent the rights of its members: the Directors Guild of America.

On February 3, 2013, the DGA reported that Michael Apted and Thomas Schlamme accepted appointments to co-chair the upcoming DGA Feature Film and Television Negotiations Committee.  The core mission of these negotiations is to “protect and extend the creative and economic rights of(DGA) members – directors and members of the directorial teams.” They will be working closely with Creative Rights Committee Co-chairs Steven Soderbergh and Jonathan Mostow.

Now is the time for the women members of the DGA to ask that the underemployment of women directors become a key issue to be addressed in the upcoming 2013 DGA negotiations with the studios. DGA Executive Director, Jay Roth has successfully led negotiations on the Guild’s major collective bargaining agreements six times since becoming National Executive Director in 1995.

The time has come…

…for Mr. Roth and the elected leaders of the DGA: Taylor Hackford, Steven Soderbergh, Michael Apted, and Thomas Schlamme and Jonathan Mostow, together will all other members of the DGA Negotiating Committee and DGA Staff, to get together with key studio executives and level the playing field for women directors.

How Many Women Directors in 70 Years of American TV?

101One way or the other, boys, you gotta hire

at least one woman director.  It’s the law!”

Edited by Maria Giese


On June 2, 2013, the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) announced their picks of the 101 Best Written TV Series, “…honoring seven decades of outstanding television programming and the writers who brought it all to life. The list was determined through online voting by WGAW and WGAE members.”(www.deadline.com).

We women directors here at “WOMEN DIRECTORS: NAVIGATING THE BOYS’ CLUB” had a little extra time on our hands last week, so we decided to count, show-by-show, episode-by-episode…

This is what we learned: out of 9,274 episodes (not including those for which we have insufficient data), just 603 episodes were directed by women.  That’s 6.5%!

So, based on the WGA list, how many episodes of each show were directed by women in 70 years of American television?

Hold on to your hats!

1. The Sopranos – HBO – Created by David Chase (86 episodes, 1 episode directed by a woman).

2. Seinfeld – NBC – Created by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld (180 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

3. The Twilight Zone (1959) – CBS – Season One writers: Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Robert Presnell, Jr., Rod Serling (158 episodes, 1 episode directed by women).

4. All in the Family – CBS – Developed for Television by Norman Lear, Based on Till Death Do Us Part, Created by Johnny Speight (201 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

5. M*A*S*H – CBS – Developed for Television by Larry Gelbart (256 episodes, 5 episodes directed by women).

6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show – CBS – Created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns (168 episodes, 6 episodes directed by women).

7. Mad Men – AMC – Created by Matthew Weiner (76 episodes, 16 episodes directed by women).

8. Cheers – NBC – Created by Glen Charles & Les Charles and James Burrows (275 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

9. The Wire – HBO – Created by David Simon (60 episodes, 9 episodes directed by women).

10. The West Wing – NBC – Created by Aaron Sorkin (154 episodes, 24 episodes directed by women).

11. The Simpsons – FOX – Created by Matt Groening, Developed by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening and Sam Simon (530 episodes, 35 episodes directed by women).

12. I Love Lucy – CBS – “Pilot,” Written by Jess Oppenheimer & Madelyn Pugh & Bob Carroll, Jr. (181 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

13. Breaking Bad – AMC – Created by Vince Gilligan (62 episodes, 16 episodes directed by women).

14. The Dick Van Dyke Show – CBS – Created by Carl Reiner (158 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

15. Hill Street Blues – NBC – Created by Michael Kozoll and Steven Bochco (146 episodes, 9 episodes directed by women).

16. Arrested Development – FOX – Created by Mitchell Hurwitz (68 episodes, 7 episodes directed by women).

17. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – COMEDY CENTRAL – Created by Madeleine Smithberg, Lizz Winstead; Season One – Head Writer: Chris Kreski; Writers: Jim Earl, Daniel J. Goor, Charles Grandy, J.R. Havlan, Tom Johnson, Kent Jones, Paul Mercurio, Guy Nicolucci, Steve Rosenfield, Jon Stewart (Insufficient data).

18. Six Feet Under – HBO – Created by Alan Ball (63 episodes, 9 episodes directed by women).

19. Taxi – ABC – Created by James L. Brooks and Stan Daniels and David Davis and Ed Weinberger (113 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

20. The Larry Sanders Show – HBO – Created by Garry Shandling & Dennis Klein (Insufficient data).

21. 30 Rock – NBC – Created by Tina Fey (138 episodes, 41 episodes directed by women).

22. Friday Night Lights – NBC – Developed for Television by Peter Berg, Inspired by the Book by H.G. Bissinger (76 episodes, 7 episodes directed by women).

23. Frasier – NBC – Created by David Angell & Peter Casey & David Lee, Based on the Character “Frasier Crane” Created by Glen Charles & Les Charles (264 episodes, 35 episodes directed by women).

24. Friends – NBC – Created by Marta Kauffman & David Crane (236 episodes, 18 episodes directed by women).

25. Saturday Night Live – NBC – Season One: Writing Supervised by Walter Kempley, Harry Shearer; Written by: Ann Beatts, Chevy Chase, Tom Davis, Al Franken, Rosie Michaels, Garrett Morris, Michael O’Donoghue, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller, Alan Zweibel (Insufficient data).

26. The X-Files – FOX – Created by Chris Carter (182 episodes, 2 episodes directed by women).

27. Lost – ABC – Created by Jeffrey Lieber and J.J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof (121 episodes, 4 episodes directed by women).

28. ER – NBC – Created Michael Crichton (331 episodes, 55 episodes directed by women).

29. The Cosby Show – NBC – Created by Ed Weinberger & Michael Leeson and William Cosby, Jr., Ed.D. (201 episodes, 10 episodes directed by women).

30. Curb Your Enthusiasm – HBO – Created by Larry David (80 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

31. The Honeymooners – CBS – Season One writers: Herbert Finn, Marvin Marx, A.J. Russell, Leonard Stern, Walter Stone, Sydney Zelinka (Insufficient Data).

32. Deadwood – HBO – Created by David Milch (36 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

33. Star Trek – NBC – Created by Gene Roddenberry (79 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

34. Modern Family – ABC – Created by Steven Levitan & Christopher Lloyd (96 episodes, 9 episodes directed by women).

35. Twin Peaks – ABC – “Pilot,” Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch (30 episodes, 5 episodes directed by women).

36. NYPD Blue – ABC – created by David Milch & Steven Bochco (263 episodes, 30 episodes directed by women).

37. The Carol Burnett Show – CBS – Season One: Written by Bill Angelos, Stan Burns, Don Hinkley, Buz Kohan, Mike Marmer, Gail Parent, Kenny Solms, Saul Turtletaub; Writing Supervised by Arnie Rosen (Insufficient data).

38. Battlestar Galactica (2005) – SYFY – Developed by Ronald D. Moore, Based on the Series Battlestar Galactica Created by Glen A. Larson (75 episodes, 2 episodes directed by women).

39.  Sex & the City – HBO – Created by Darren Star, Based on the Book by Candace Bushnell (94 episodes, 21 episodes directed by women).

40. Game of Thrones – HBO – Created by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, Based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (30 episodes, 2 episodes directed by women).

41. The Bob Newhart Show – CBS – Created by David Davis and Lorenzo Music (142 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

41. Your Show of Shows – NBC – Season One: Written by Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Max Liebman (Insufficient Data).

43. Downton Abbey *TIE – PBS – Created by Julian Fellowes (24 episodes, 2 episodes directed by women).

43. Law & Order – NBC – Created by Dick Wolf (456 episodes, 32 episodes directed by women).

43. thirtysomething  – ABC – Created by Marshall Herskovitz & Edward Zwick (First 3 seasons*: 62 episodes, 6 episodes directed by women). *incomplete data.

46. Homicide: Life on the Street – NBC – Created by Paul Attanasio, Based on the Book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon (122 episodes, 16 episodes directed by women).

46. St. Elsewhere – NBC – Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey, Developed by Mark Tinker / John Masius (137 episodes, 11 episodes directed by women).

48. Homeland – SHOWTIME – Developed by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, Based on the Original Israeli Series Prisoners of War by Gideon Raff (24 episodes, 1 episodes directed by women).

49. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – WB – Created by Joss Whedon (144 episodes, 4 episodes directed by women).

50. The Colbert Report – COMEDY CENTRAL – Season One writers: Stephen Colbert, Rich Dahm, Eric Drysdale, Peter Gwinn, Jay Katsir, Laura Krafft, Allison Silverman (Insufficient Data).

50. The Good Wife – CBS – Created by Robert King & Michelle King (90 episodes, 22 episodes directed by women).

50. The Office (UK) – BBC – Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant (UK version, insufficient data).

53. Northern Exposure – CBS – Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey (110 episodes, 4 episodes directed by women).

54. The Wonder Years – ABC – Created by Neal Marlens & Carol Black (115 episodes, 6 episodes directed by women).

55. L.A. Law – NBC – Created by Steven Bochco & Terry Louise Fisher (172 episodes, 39 episodes directed by women).

56. Sesame Street – PBS – Created by Joan Ganz Cooney (insufficient data).

57. Columbo – NBC – Created by Richard Levinson & William Link (69 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

58. Fawlty Towers  – BBC – Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth (insufficient data).

58. The Rockford Files  – NBC – Created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell (111 episodes, 16 episodes directed by women).

60. Freaks and Geeks  – NBC – Created by Paul Feig (18 episodes, 2 episodes directed by women).

60. Moonlighting – ABC – Created by Glenn Gordon Caron (66 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

62. Roots – ABC – Written by William Blinn, M. Charles Cohen, Ernest Kinoy, James Lee; Based on the Book by Alex Haley (insufficient data).

63. Everybody Loves Raymond  – CBS – Created by Philip Rosenthal (210 episodes, 3 episodes directed by women).

63. South Park – COMEDY CENTRAL  – Created by Matt Stone & Trey Parker (237 episodes, one episode directed by women).

65. Playhouse 90 – CBS – Season One writers: Edna Anhalt, Edmund Beloin, Harold Jack Bloom, Marc Brandel, George Bruce, James P. Cavanagh, Whitfiled Cook, Helen Doss, Scott Fitzgerald, Devery Freeman, Frank D. Gilroy, Helen Howe, Speed Lamkin, Ernest Lehman, Herbert Little, Jr., Don Mankiewicz, Elick Moll, Paul Monash, Dean Reisner, Norman Retchin, Selma Robinson, William Sackheim, Rod Serling, Leonard Spigelgass, Leslie Stevens, Brandon Thomas, David Victor, Charles M. Warren, Hagar Wilde, Cornell Woolrich (insufficient data).

66. Dexter  – SHOWTIME – Developed for Television by James Manos, Jr., Based on the Novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (84 episodes, 1 episode directed by women).

66. The Office (US) – NBC – Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant, Developed by Greg Daniels, Based on the BBC Series The Office (201 episodes, 10 episodes directed by women).

68. My So-Called Life – ABC – Created by Winnie Holzman (19 episodes, 3 episodes directed by women).

69. The Golden Girls – NBC – Created by Susan Harris (173 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

70. The Andy Griffith Show – CBS – Episode 1, “The New Housekeeper,” Written by Jack Elinson and Charles Stewart (249 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

71. 24  – FOX – Created by Joel Surnow & Robert Cochran (192 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

71. Roseanne – ABC – Created by Matt Williams, Based on a Character Created by Roseanne Barr (221 episodes, 23 episodes directed by women).

71. The Shield  – FX – Created by Shawn Ryan (88 episodes, 6 episodes directed by women).

74. House  – FOX – Created by David Shore (177 episodes, 14 episodes directed by women).

74. Murphy Brown – CBS – Created by Diane English (insufficient data).

76. Barney Miller – ABC – Created by Danny Arnold & Theodore J. Flicker (insufficient data).

76. I, Claudius  – PBS – Written by Robert Graves and Jack Pulman (13 episodes, insufficient data).

78. The Odd Couple – ABC – Episode 1, “The Fight of the Felix,” Written by Peggy Elliott & Ed Scharlach (114 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

79. Alfred Hitchcock Presents – CBS – Season One writers – Gwen Bagni, Samuel Blas, Robert Blees, Ray Bradbury, Richard Carr, James Cavanagh, Eustace Cockrell, Francis Cockrell, Marian Cockrell, John Collier, Robert C. Dennis, Mel Dinelli, Stanley Ellin, Fred Freiberger, Irwin Gielgud, Gina Kaus, Terence Maples, Richard Pedicini, Louis Pollock, Joseph Ruscoll, A.J. Russell, Stirling Silliphant, Andrew Solt, Harold Swanton, Victor Wolfson, Cornell Woolrich (Zero episodes directed by women).

79. Monty Python’s Flying Circus – BBC – Conceived and Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Terry Jones, Michael Palin (insufficient data).

79. Star Trek: The Next Generation  – SYN – Created by Gene Roddenberry (178 episodes, 7 episodes directed by women).

79. Upstairs, Downstairs – PBS – Created by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins (68 episodes, 3 episodes directed by women).

83. Get Smart – NBC – “Pilot,” Written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry (138 episodes, 2 episodes directed by women).

84. The Defenders  – CBS – Created by Reginald Rose (18 episodes, 3 episodes directed by women).

84. Gunsmoke – CBS – Episode 1, “Matt Gets It,” Written by Charles Marquis Warren & John Meston (635 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

86. Justified – FX –  Developed for Television by Graham Yost, Based on the Short Story “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard (52 episodes, 3 episodes directed by women).

87. Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) – CBS – Created by Nat Hiken (insufficient data).

88. Band of Brothers – HBO – Written by Erik Bork, E. Max Frye, Tom Hanks, Erik Jendresen, Bruce C. McKenna, John Orloff, Graham Yost; Based on the Book by Stephan E. Ambrose (10 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

89. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In – NBC – Season One: Written by Chris Beard, Phil Hahn, John Hanrahan, Coslough Johnson, Paul Keyes, Marc London, Allan Manings, David Panich, Hugh Wedlock, Digby Wolfe  (Insufficient data).

90. The Prisoner – CBS – Premiere Episode: Written by George Markstein and David Tomblin  (Insufficient data).

91. Absolutely Fabulous (UK) – BBC – Episode 1, “Fashion,” Written by Jennifer Saunders, Based on an Original Idea by Jennifer Saunders & Dawn French  (Insufficient data).

The Muppet Show – SYN – Season One: Written by Jack Burns, Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, Marc London  (Insufficient data).

93. Boardwalk Empire – HBO – Created by Terence Winter, Based on the Book Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson  (36 episodes, 2 episodes directed by women).

94. Will & Grace – NBC – Created by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick  (184 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

95. Family Ties – NBC – Created by Gary David Goldberg  (168 episodes, 12 episodes directed by women).

96. Lonesome Dove – CBS – Teleplay by Bill Wittliff, Based on the Novel Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry  insufficient data).

96. Soap – ABC – Created by Susan Harris  (Insufficient data).

98. The Fugitive – ABC – Episode 1, “Where the Action Is,” Written by Harry Kronman  (120 episodes, 3 episodes directed by women).

98. Late Night with David Letterman *TIE – NBC – Season One: Writing Supervised by Merrill Markoe, Writers: Andy Breckman, Tom Gammill, David Letterman, Richard Morris, Gerard Mulligan, Max Pross, Karl Tiedemann, Steve Winer  (Insufficient data).

98. Louie – FX -Season One: Written and Directed by Louis C.K. (39 episodes, Zero episodes directed by women).

101. Oz – HBO – Created by Tom Fontana  (56 episodes, 10 episodes directed by women).

For more information on the “WGA’s 101 Best Written TV Series List” visit: http://www.wga.org/101tv.html or www.wgaeast.org/tv101.”

Note: Our calculations are based on our own analyses made from Wikipedia breakdowns of episodic TV shows.  It is a work-in-progress. Please report errors or omissions.

DGA Women Directors Foment a Rebellion


By Maria Giese

Written by Maria Giese, published by Melissa Silverstein of  “Women And Hollywood” March 6, 2013

This past Saturday, March 2, 2013, became an historic day as the DGA Women’s Steering Committee hosted the DGA Women of Action Summit in LA bringing together 150 female American directors for a day-long event designed to create solutions to the problem of the under-representation and under-employment of women directors in Hollywood. This event was a long time coming and to me, the day was reminiscent, in terms of unity, passion and commitment to the rallies for women’s rights of the 1970’s.

The day included opening remarks by Academy Award-winner and advocate, Geena Davis, who connected the need for the global proliferation of more positive images of women and girls to the immediacy of getting more women behind the camera here in Hollywood. Currently, according to the latest stats from the DGA, women only helm 5% of feature films and 15% of episodic TV shows.

Victoria Hochberg, who introduced Geena Davis, set the moral tone for the day with a beautifully-crafted speech about the history of the DGA Women’s Committee and the need for courage and principles in the face of an industry that often does not honor the civil rights laws of our nation.  Hochberg was one of the six who started the DGA Women’s Committee in 1979.  She reminded us of our history and spoke the difficulties involved in attaining the employment data.  In 1979, women made up one half of one percent of employed DGA directors. Most interestingly, she revealed how the Women’s Committee succeeded in getting the DGA to file a class-action lawsuit against three major studios in 1983, a piece of history not often shared by the Guild.

The first panel, “Employment Equity Matters,” moderated by Martha Coolidge, director of 46 films and the first and only female president of the DGA, included successful feature directors: Debbie Allen, Catherine Hardwicke, Amy Heckerling, Mimi Leder, Nancy Meyers, Robin Swicord, Betty Thomas, and Nia Vardalos. Each of these mega directors agreed that even the view from the top is dismal. Even in success, America’s top women directors do not enjoy the privileges accorded to their male peers.  Robin Swicord called for participants to recognize that the low number of women directors in Hollywood appears to violate U.S. equal employment laws. Even reluctant attendee Betty Thomas was incredibly moved by the event declaring “I’m ashamed! I’m ashamed! This is great!” And a great cheer arose.

PLEASE CONTINUE READING at http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/guest-post-dga-women-directors-foment-a-rebellion