In a recent development, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) approved a new three-year contract with major studios, triggering mixed reactions among Hollywood writers from underrepresented groups. While the contract was primarily focused on economic stability, many members of minority communities, including people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, disabled people, and women, had hoped for a stronger emphasis on diversifying the entertainment industry.
Despite the absence of direct demands for diversity within the contract negotiations, some minority writers express concern over institutional bias, particularly after witnessing the scaling back of diversity initiatives during recent cost-cutting measures. Studios have also become less vocal about their inclusion pledges made in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in 2020.
In response, some writers have taken matters into their own hands, launching initiatives to revive diversity promises and provide support to fellow minority writers. These efforts are crucial, as there is apprehension that studios may prioritize cost-cutting to recover from the strike, potentially neglecting diversity initiatives.
The representation of underrepresented groups in the industry remains a pressing issue. According to a WGA report, people of color accounted for just 22.6% of screen employment in 2020, despite comprising 42.2% of the U.S. population. Additionally, individuals with disabilities hold only about 1% of writing roles for TV series, pilots, and screenplays, despite 27% of American adults reporting disabilities.
The current climate for achieving greater equity is different from the racial justice protests of 2020, with the Supreme Court’s decision banning affirmative action in college admissions prompting a reconsideration of diversity in corporate America. Moreover, the film and TV industry has seen a loss of 45,000 jobs since May, while traditional television viewership declines and streaming services struggle financially.
The uncertainty surrounding the industry’s future poses challenges for minority writers, who fear marginalization. As Hollywood faces economic and accessibility barriers, initiatives like the Inevitable Foundation seek to provide financial support to disabled writers and advocate for more equitable opportunities. However, concerns persist that, as writer pay increases, studios may produce fewer shows, putting minority writers in more junior positions and making them vulnerable to layoffs.