Here's something you might not have been aware of that's fairly notable: Lifetime’s scripted programming slate is entirely made up of shows created and run by women. The showrunners spoke at the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday and made it a point to discuss how having women in charge changes the whole dynamic.
The panel included UnReal co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and showrunner Stacy Rukeyser, Mary Kills People’s Tara Armstrong, You showrunner Sera Gamble, and American Princess creator Jamie Denbo.
“We absolutely have created a safe space in our writers room, on our set, and with our actors,” said UnReal showrunner Stacy Rukeyser explained.
“I am really proud of the way that we have handled things, and our studio and our network have been incredibly supportive,” she said, according to SFGate.
They also spoke to the difference it makes to have a predominantly female staff, in very stark terms. “They’re going to be better,” said American Princess creator Jamie Denbo, Deadline reports.
When writing rooms are led by men, they; “[spend] so much time presenting women in situations where they are being victimized, which is a narrative I personally am so tired of,” said Mary Kills People creator/showrunner Tara Armstrong.
The biggest difference is a simple one: respect. “I don’t have to over-explain myself,” said UnReal co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro noted. “We just walk in and are taken incredibly seriously.”
Being explained to, and feeling disrespected, was a recurring theme on the panel.
“It’s really the micro-aggressions,” You co-creator/co-showrunner Sera Gambel says, reports Deadline. “The way things are over-explained to women,” or the way credit is dispensed in a room and the small slights that happen. “Over time that does wear people down; it silences them.”
It's also all about the content, not just being safe at work (even though that is obviously important). “What I want at the end of this Me Too movement…is so much more than just a safe working environment for me and my colleagues,” said UnREAL showrunner Stacy Rukeyser, Deadline reports. “What I want is to get our shows on the air and get rid of the idea female-run shows are going to be ‘soft’ or get rid of the insistence that female characters are ‘likeable’ which makes them soft. And to get rid of the idea you need a man above you or with you because a woman is going to be too emotional…or any of the other stereotypes out there about women, to handle a $30M plus budget on their own.”
Lifetime's female-led programming team so important because it's an anomaly, and that simply has to stop being so. A recent study from racial justice organization Color of Change finds that 91 percent of showrunners are white and 80 percent are male. Of the 17 networks they analyzed, four had zero women showrunners – TNT, TBS, Comedy Central, and AMC.