Continuing the podcast discussion on the comparatively low number of female screenwriters, listener Elana writes in to call attention to Deborah Tannen’s book, Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work:
In the book, she at one point floats the theory that the Glass Ceiling is actually an issue of how confidence is perceived in different groups, and how groups are socialized to express (or not) that confidence starting in childhood. Women, she theorizes, are socialized very early to not speak too well of themselves, whereas young boys are both subtly and overtly rewarded for boasting about themselves a little bit.
I’ve often wondered if the above is at play in screenwriting. So much of screenwriting as a career is not really about the words on the page but much more about how you come into a room and tell terrified people that you can save their asses and fix their franchise. Even at the level of interest [in the profession], I wonder if this is a factor. Perhaps even to submit to the Nicholl or to you guys, or to ask an agent to read your material, one needs to feel comfortable donning the mantle of “I’m probably pretty awesome”? Maybe, even to get interested in screenwriting in a minor way, you have to believe that you are crazy amazing and can beat insane odds.
I am just speculating, but I would be prepared to believe that men, on a population level, are more likely to do that than women. That might account for some of the difference in interest levels.
To me, this speaks to the importance of modeling. Often, you don’t aspire to become something until you see someone like you achieve it. The best way to get more female screenwriters (and directors) is to raise the visibility of those we already have.