Despite frequent lip-service toward diversity, a new study from the Director's Guild of America finds that television, like most industries, prefers to let white men get their foot in the door before everybody else. In a five-year study, the DGA examined the 479 people who directed their first television episode between the 2009–'10 and 2013–'14 TV seasons and found that the pool was 87 percent white and 82 percent male. (The U.S. as a whole is 75 percent white and 49 percent male.)
The DGA's sampling of first-time directors was intended as a survey control for experience. "Even when hiring first-timers, the studios and executive producers are making choices that show they don’t actively support diversity hiring," DGA vice-president Betty Thomas said in a statement. "First-time TV directors are new to the game and come from all areas of the industry including film school — so why is a woman or minority any less qualified than anybody else?"
And, since most people who direct TV are people who have directed TV before, this lack of diversity in first-time directors will likely be reflected in the profession as a whole. In the words of DGA president Paris Barclay, the first person of color to head the guild, "Without change at the entry level — where women and minority directors get their first directing assignment — it’ll be status quo from here to eternity."
The DGA says they commissioned the study to put pressure on producers to actually walk the walk when it comes to diversity. "Most of the industry claims to want a more diversified directing workforce," said Thomas, who also co-chairs the guild's Diversity Task Force. "Here's their chance. It could all start here."