It will take a long time before there are enough Kate McKinnons, Mindy Kalings, Samantha Bees, or Maya Rudolphs to convince people that women are funny. That’s why the Emmys have gender categories.
The “Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series” category for the Emmys is an absolute powerhouse. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Rachel Brosnahan, Natasha Lyonne, and more are up for the award. The “Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series” category is looking pretty good too, with Kate McKinnon, Olivia Coleman, and others in the running.
Gender categories or not, these women are undeniably funny, and the gender categories are what allow them to be recognized for their humor and wit. Without them, these women could easily be buried by industry challenges created and exacerbated by sexism.
The Emmys are far from the only entity to employ gender categories or targets. The Oscars, the Olympics, employers, companies, and governments abroad use gender targets to create equal opportunities for women.
At RepresentWomen, we put out an annual International Report on the state of women’s representation around the world. We rank each country, and this year the United States ranked 78th. We found that of the countries that rank above the United States, 82% use gender quotas, and 90% of the countries in the top 50 use gender quotas. These gender quotas operate in similar ways as Emmys gender categories; both create space for qualified women.
Whether in politics or in comedy, making room for women is instrumental in working toward gender equality. Women face barriers that men don’t, such as the expectation that women can’t be funny or can’t be good leaders. Gender targets can balance out these negative preconceived notions, making it possible for women to get the recognition and representation they deserve.