A major network wants to close the gender gap in television directing — and they're starting an initiative in order to put their goal into action. According to statements made by the network at the Television Critics Association press tour on Thursday, NBC has launched the Female Forward initiative, a program designed to give more women directors the opportunity to helm scripted television.
Representation in front of the camera is so important, and it's just as important for women to have a hand in crafting the TV series the world watches regularly. According to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, women directed only 17% of television episodes in the 2015-2016 TV season.
That stat is totally disappointing, and to help raise that percentage, NBC's new program will help nurture female directors. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Female Forward initiative will give 10 female directors the opportunity to shadow up to three episodes of an NBC series. After the shadowing ends, each director will helm at least one episode of that series.
At the TCA panel, NBC president Jennifer Salke spoke about why this was an issue so important to NBC.
"It's been a collective and urgent goal of ours to identify more female directors," Salke said. "We strongly believe women can and should be at the forefront of telling compelling stories, and I hope the guaranteed directing component will have real impact on our shows as well as the industry."
The program, a partnership with TV director Lesli Linka Glatter, will help NBC cultivate new talent, and will be a "game changer" for women in the industry, Glatter told the TCA panel audience.
"I'm truly optimistic that with this kind of commitment from the incredible Jen Salke and NBC Entertainment, we can actually make a difference," she added. "A program like this is a game changer, and it's an honor to be a part of it."
This isn't the first time an active push has been made for more women-identifying directors. Every episode of season 2 of OWN's Queen Sugar will be directed by a woman, in a push for inclusivity. On the film side, Refinery29 showcases the directing talents of women with Shatterbox Anthology.
Recently, Big Little Lies star Nicole Kidman spoke out about the issue during a press conference at Cannes.
"Still only about 4% of women directed the major motion pictures of 2016... that there says it all," the Emmy nominee said. "I think that’s an important thing to say and keep saying... We as women have to support female directors, that’s a given now. Everyone is saying it’s so different now — but it isn’t. Listen to the statistics."
Hollywood can't win without women — and major props for NBC for giving women a chance to use their storytelling talents on TV.