WHAT ABOUT THE ROOM? AND THE MAN-TERRUPTING?
Writer's Room: On most television shows, the daily business of creating the stories for the show transpires in the Writer's Room. All of the writers on staff work together to create each episode's story beats. This is a social, collective process that can be as invigorating as it can be infuriating.
There are some rooms where no matter what you bring to it, you won't be heard because you are female. And there are some rooms run by people like Jill Soloway, who insist upon what she calls "coming from the feminine" which is a less aggressive, more inclusive way of pitching.
Neither of the above is the norm. The norm looks more like this: the writer's room has moments where it crackles with tension because everyone is presenting pitches (story ideas) that they hope will stick with whomevers in charge. It's competitive. There is interrupting. There is head-shaking when you present your idea. There is deafening silence when you present your idea. It can feel as awkward as the Bill Maher show, and like the Bill Maher show, it is often the women who are left scrambling.
This is not a hopeless scenario, which is why we are bothering to write about it. We have seen too many times the new female writer who shuts down in the face of interrupting, loud voices and failed pitches. She stops pitching, stops contributing. And guess what? Stops ascending the ranks and getting hired. So...
Truth: White men, which many of your colleagues will be because (see: this recent WGA study), are trained from birth to be loud, to be comfortable with the level of conflict and competitiveness in a writer's room. So they'll be going to town on each other in the room with their blood pressure barely rising. New female writer may pipe up -- be overpowered -- and spend the rest of the session blushing, feeling stupid, feeling furious and disrespected. Or she does get heard by speaking loudly, and she still spends the rest of the time feeling personally offended.
Part of your learning curve at a TV show is about how to conduct yourself in the room. The other part is how to write. But a HUGE PART is the writer's room. So you need to push yourself to have a thicker skin, a louder voice, and to come back each day with new ideas, with confidence. As we said, sometimes this will never work. But MOST of the time, it will.
Because most rooms are rowdy and competitive and you have to be strong to be heard. As said above, this is the big leagues, and the big leagues are full of confident, confident people. That should be you. And if it's not, fake it until you make it. Because otherwise you won't.
All of the above is not to say you should be someone other than who you are. We want to make you aware of what the expectations are when you work in a writer's room. And what the ramifications are if you don't meet the expectations. You don't have to mimic a dude. You don't have to pitch ideas you don't believe in just to talk more, or pitch ideas based solely on a need to please the showrunner. You just have to give your ideas -- YOUR ideas -- a chance to be heard. And thereby give yourself a chance to succeed.