Men alternately setting loose and struggling to cage their wildest natures has always been the great American story, the one found in whatever happens to be the ascendant medium at the time. Our favorite genres— the western; the gangster saga; the lonesome but dogged private eye operating outside the comforts of normal, domestic life; the superhero with his double identities— have all been literalizations of that inner struggle, just as Huckleberry Finn striking out for the territories was, or Ishmael taking to the sea. It should have been no surprise, then, that the Third Golden Age of TV began by revisiting those genres.

The field of television grew dramatically at the beginning of 21st century. With an increased demand for original content came more opportunities to have a show greenlit.  The increase in opportunities were not distributed evenly between the genders due to a dual queueing process described by Barbara Reskin. Within the field of television, there are potential producers of shows and there are programmers of the channels who decide what gets made and what does not. The potential producers are not a homogenous group of individuals. Within the potential producers group there are various ways of categorizing individuals. These categories are arranged hierarchically according to perceived worth or potential by the programmers. The programmers greenlight the shows of the producers in the highest ranked categories first and continue greenlighting shows of this group until it is more or less depleted. It is then that programmers will settle for less highly ranked groups.

The programmers are not the only one whose perceptions matter. The potential producers categorize the channels that programmers represent as well and rank them according to these categorizations. Sometimes these rankings determine who a potential producer will pitch a show to and other times it influences what offer to accept when there are multiple channels interested in a show.

Unfortunately for women, however they may be categorized in other areas, they are generally perceived as rankning lower than men, and this often means they get passed over if considered at all. Making matters worse is the limited opportunities available compared to the size of the pool of potential producers. Because there are so few opportunities available, potential producers usually must take what they can get. This high demand for relatively few positions means that programmers are able to pick individuals who they perceive as being the most capable based solely on the categories that an individual producer belongs. Women are not necessarily perceived as being less capable simply because of their gender. Their gender has impacted their opportunities at every stage of their careers that their resumes may appear to be less qualified. Programmers may not be out right sexists, but the proxies they use to rank producers generally affect women disproportionately compared to men.

The entry into the field of Netflix and Amazon has provided opportunities for women to produce shows in more recent years. As newcomers, these streaming services ranked below traditional television channels for potential producers. The traditional channels having depleted the pool of producers to the point that the streaming services were pushed to gambles in hiring women to produce some shows.

 

Works Cited