Forbes’ list of the highest-earning television actresses is out. It’s nice to see two women of color, Sofia Vergara and Eva Longoria, in the top five. And there are a number of other revealing elements to the numbers.
One of the things that’s important to note about the list is the number of women on it who are clustered into a few franchises. Four of them were on Desperate Housewives, two are Kardashian sisters, two are on Grey’s Anatomy, or its spinoff, Private Practice. The same tends to be true of women television writers and directors: rather than being evenly distributed, they’re clustered on woman-friendly shows and franchises. When one of those shows goes off the air, the number of women making bank, or getting a chance to write television episodes, goes down dramatically in a way it wouldn’t if women were making consistent financial gains or getting entrenched as writers across a broad swath of shows.
The number of women who are serious franchises are also concentrated heavily on two of the four networks, ABC with eight and CBS with five. Some of these stars are doing well because of outside endorsements, like Eva Longoria, or because of reputations—and profits—they brought in other projects, as with Melissa McCarthy and Bridesmaids. But Sofia Vergara and Kaley Cuoco really grew into major stars as a result of their tenures on Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. Some of these numbers are simply due to the fact that CBS is a much more profitable network than, say, NBC. But it’s nice to see at least some of the profits CBS’s big, broad shows go to women, and to see CBS make money by focusing on women, even if the end result is broad rather than revolutionary.