06/26/2012 08:48 am ET Updated Aug 26, 2012

The "Girls" of TV: A New Wave of Pioneers

There's a new hot TV mogul on the scene. She's brilliant, she's powerful, she's funny, and she's just 26 years old. Talk about your wunderkinds.

As creator of the HBO's white-hot series, Girls, Lena Dunham is a bona fide triple-threat, serving as the show's executive producer, writer and co-star. And what a show! Dead-honest, whip-smart and hilarious, Girls paints a vivid portrait of the young 21st Century woman -- anxieties, passions, triumphs and all. As the driving force behind the program, Dunham embodies a new generation that has brought a distinct female sensibility to television.

What a pleasure it has been to see that generation at work. It was only in 1994 that producer and writer Marta Kauffman pulled together a group of six Friends, and in doing so rewrote the rulebook on how women characters could behave on television. And those women talked about everything -- from their boyfriends (and having more than one), to fantasies, to "the wet spot" on the bed.

Since then, we've seen a motherlode (rather, make that a sisterlode) of similarly landmark television from women who know how to marshal all of their talents to make their vision come to life on the small screen. Tina Fey isn't just the star of 30 Rock -- she's the creator and writer. Same goes for Amy Poehler (creator, writer and star of Parks and Recreation), Elizabeth Meriwether (creator and writer of The New Girl), Whitney Cummings (writer and producer of 2 Broke Girls and Whitney), and Mindy Kaling (executive producer, writer and star of The Office and The Mindy Project--the latter coming this fall).

What all of these women have in common is that they didn't wait for someone to do it for them. They did it all. It's not always easy to wear so many hats, but the rewards are immeasurable. I remember when I was doing my television show, That Girl, in which I played the title role, I was also one of the creators and producers. I signed the checks, I hired staff, and I participated in script meetings, editing -- everything that goes into making a show.

At the time, the television industry was a boys-only kind of club; so I realized early on that the only way I was going to be able to get such a "revolutionary" kind of show on the air -- one that depicted the real, independent women across the country who were ambitious and didn't necessarily want to get married -- was if I could make our voices heard from both sides of the camera.

As my dear pal Billy Persky, our original head writer, once said, "That Girl threw the hand grenade into the bunker, and Mary Richards and Kate & Allie and Murphy Brown walked right in."

And now even more women have walked right in. And yet, according to an alarming study of this past season's television programming, women only accounted for 25% of all the individuals working behind the scenes of prime-time television programming. Hopefully, "girls" like Lena Dunham can inspire those numbers to rise.

A few years ago, I spoke at a ceremony honoring the legendary women of television and radio, and I said, "The women honored here can truly be called pioneers -- and by pioneers, I don't mean the ladies in bonnets who baked the bread and stirred the soup, but the ones who sat up front and drove the damn wagon!"

Well, here's to the newest team of wagon-drivers. Take a look!

Women Behind The Scenes