Where Are the Women on US Television?

No channel has dared choose a female comic to front a late night show.

Ten men in suits. They are the 10 faces of humor on U.S. television. The 10 hosts of the prestigious late night shows, which set the pace of the country’s television culture when the clocks tick into the early hours. Television is better than ever, announced the Vanity Fair headline about the nighttime scheduling handover following Jon Stewart and David Letterman’s departures. Television will enjoy one of its best moments, but the picture does not say the same thing for many Americans, who immediately asked themselves, “Where are the women?”

The two political parties in the U.S. have female candidates for the presidency. Women like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer or Indra Nooyi occupy the highest echelons of Facebook, Google and Pepsi. Another three women — more than ever — are leading the most liberal wing of the Supreme Court. However, the advances are not the same in the world of television. Why has no woman hosted a late night show? Are there not enough candidates? Amy Poehler? Tina Fey? Sarah Silverman? Not even Amy Schumer?

The lack of women hosts is tied to the scarcity of women scriptwriters. Poehler and Fey are an exception. The comic Bill Maher, for example, only works with male writers. Only Conan O’Brien reached the record of two female writers — in a team of more than a dozen.

The complaints about the lack of diversity, both in front of the camera in a late night show and in its team of writers, are repeated like a broken record at the start of every new season. In 2010, a female writer for Letterman shook up the sector with an essay about the hostile working environment in her program. Five years later, Vanity Fair describes the anxiety with which Stewart and Letterman left at the beginning of the summer abandoning their viewers, who were anxious to know “how to go on with their life” and “who was going to help them get through their days.” The answer is the same: another male comic in a suit and tie.

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