WMC Reports

WMC investigation: 2017 review of gender and Emmy primetime nominations

WMC Reports 2017 Emmy Report Cover

Despite modest gains for women in a few categories, the 2017 Primetime Emmy Award nominations reflect the ongoing deficit of behind-the-camera opportunities for women in television, according to a Women’s Media Center analysis. In the combined categories of writing, directing, editing, and producing, women gained one percentage point, standing at 26 percent compared to 25 percent last year.

 Overall, there was no change in the percentage of women nominated in all 89 non-acting categories for the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, to be broadcast Sunday, Sept. 17.

 “Women still lag behind their male counterparts in these influential behind-the-scenes roles,” said Julie Burton, WMC president. “Women represent only 28 percent of all non-acting nominations, and there are no women nominees in 18 of the non-acting categories. This is unacceptable. These numbers do not reflect the tremendous talent, experience, and impact of female writers, producers, editors and directors. While the slight uptick in some categories is encouraging, women still are nowhere near parity and men continue their dominance. Executives must do better in addressing the disparity of women behind the camera.”

The research showed that women lost ground in writing and editing, but improved in directing and producing. Women writers dropped to 21 percent from 23 percent; editors dropped one percentage point, from 21 to 20 percent. Women directing nominees gained one percentage point over last year. The producing categories show improvement across the board for female nominees, rising from 29 to 31 percent.

The reason for the rise in female producers is unclear, though some of the increase is due to actresses who are producing their own material.

Several women producers are nominated for projects they spearheaded and also starred in, like Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman for “Big Little Lies,” Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon for “Feud: Bette and Joan,” and Oprah Winfrey with Harpo Films for “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Ava DuVernay was nominated in the Outstanding Directing For A Nonfiction Program category for “13th,” her Netflix documentary about the history of oppression and mass incarceration of African Americans. “13th” earned eight Emmy nominations overall, including three for DuVernay in writing, directing, and producing. “13th” also was nominated for an Oscar.

Samantha Bee broke the glass ceiling for female comedians in late-night comedy with “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” which earned seven nominations overall. Last year it was nominated only for writing. 

Female-driven programming like “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Big Little Lies,” “Feud: Bette and Joan,” “Veep,” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” earned multiple nominations for Primetime Emmy Awards. The Women’s March received two nominations: one for “Viceland at the Women’s March” (Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction Or Reality Series) and another for Outstanding Commercial.

There are a total of 43 writing, directing, producing, and editing categories: six writing; eight directing; 21 producing, and eight editing.

This report was written by Sasha Stone.

Tiffany Nguyen, WMC program associate, conducted this research. The Emmy analysis was drawn using information from Emmys.com. An individual was counted only once per category even if they were nominated multiple times in the same year for the same award.

The Primetime Emmy Awards do not include a producing category. The WMC report includes 21 categories in which producers are nominated.


The Women’s Media Center, co-founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, works to make women visible and powerful in media. The Women’s Media Center trains women leaders to be in the media; promotes women experts to the media through WMC SheSource; conducts groundbreaking research and reporting on media inclusion and accuracy, including the “Status of Women in U.S. Media 2017” and a “10-Year Review of Gender and Emmy Nominations”; and features women’s voices and stories on our radio program “Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan” and through WMC Features, WMC FBomb, WMC Speech Project, and WMC Women Under Siege.

For more information, contact Cristal Williams Chancellor, director of communications, at cristal@womensmediacenter.com or 202-270-8539.

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