New Report Shows Widespread Misrepresentation of Domestic Workers in Hollywood
‘Spotlighting Domestic Workers: Representation in Film & TV’ expands National Domestic Workers Alliance Suite of Services for Hollywood Creators and Writers 

June 14, 2022 (New York, NY) — Today,  National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) in partnership with USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center released a new study illuminating the widespread invisibility and dehumanization of domestic workers in popular culture. The “Spotlighting Domestic Workers: Representation in Film & TV” report showcases how portrayals of domestic work on screen, from the overrepresentation of white people in domestic work to the pejorative or misleading terms that undercut the skill, training, and duties required of these professions, and offers solutions on how popular culture can be used to change this narrative. The findings will be used by NDWA to aid in both their political advocacy and culture change work. 

Findings include: 

  • Domestic workers on screen are largely portrayed as white women (69%), with the most common profession being housecleaning (57%). Additionally, white domestic workers are portrayed with more agency and competence than their colleagues of color. In reality, while most domestic workers are women, they are largely women of color and immigrants who hold a range of occupations in addition to house cleaners, like nannyship and home care. 
  • Hollywood continues to use pejorative or misleading terms to describe domestic work. Nearly one in three domestic work keyword mentions were pejorative terms, largely due to the frequency of the keyword “servant,” weakening the skills, training, and duties required of these workers. In practice, misclassifications could lead to exploitation by employers. 
  • Keywords in scripts describing home care workers appear significantly less frequently than housecleaning and childcare terms. In actuality, home care is on track to be one of the fastest growing work sectors in the United States. 

The report comes at a pivotal point for NDWA, the leading advocacy organization for domestic workers whose efforts to change the landscape of Hollywood have resulted in a national spotlight on the profession in recent years. The organization’s president Ai-jen Poo recently signed with ICM Partners, one of the leading talent agencies, to advance her work to change our cultural views around domestic workers. Additionally, NDWA this year launched its Pop Culture Worker Council, a collective of domestic workers that supports writers, directors, producers, and other entertainment professionals to ensure accuracy and authenticity in telling the stories of domestic workers. 

“Telling authentic and complex stories of domestic workers has never been more important,” Poo said. “These are the nannies that take care of our children, the housecleaners that bring order to our homes, and the care workers, for seniors and individuals with disabilities, ensure our loved ones can live with dignity. In order to create safe and dignified workplaces for domestic workers, popular culture creators need to prioritize authentic representations of domestic workers and triumphs and  struggles they experience daily.” 

“TV and movies can be harnessed to show the full humanity of domestic workers and reveal their full and fulfilling lives outside of their careers – as mothers, women, partners, friends, etc.” NDWA Executive Director Jenn Stowe said. “There is also a huge opportunity for creators to portray not only the current experience of domestic workers, but show us what a society that values domestic work looks like. This means not only showing the stories of domestic workers who are struggling without proper wages, the lack of basic labor rights and protections, and without recourse for sexual assault and harassment. 

It also means showing the value they bring to society. For example, showing how nannies and house cleaners can help ease the burden of women, who have reported increasing burnout due to their domestic expectations and responsibilities.” 

“Mass media have an unparalleled power to shape our perceptions of the world. The Lear Center has been studying this for over 20 years. Entertainment narratives in particular have a tremendous ability to raise awareness about different causes and motivate people to action,” said Dr. Erica Rosenthal, Director of Research for the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center

There are more than 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States, who are predominantly women, women of color, and immigrants who have faced a long history of exclusion from basic labor protections, like minimum wage, safety and health laws and the right to organize. Many laws such as anti-discrimination and harassment laws exclude domestic workers by default, due to the non-traditional nature of the workforce. 

In addition to examining domestic worker representations in entertainment and offering recommendations rooted in authenticity, NDWA also offers entertainment consulting services that include connections to domestic worker leaders and active domestic workers to advance just stories of domestic work in popular culture and inspire new stories that put domestic workers in the spotlight. 

For more information on domestic workers and culture change, please visit

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)
National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) is the leading voice for dignity and fairness for millions of domestic workers in the United States. Founded in 2007, NDWA works for respect, recognition and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers, the majority of whom are immigrants and women of color. NDWA is powered by over 70 affiliate organizations and local chapters and by a growing membership base of nannies, house cleaners and care workers in over 20 states. NDWA has created Alia, an online platform to help domestic workers access benefits, not otherwise granted to them, in addition to introducing a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights with now-Vice President Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal in 2019. Learn more at