I remember a few years ago when Neena Beber got the Obie for being an emerging playwright. Sheila Callaghan wrote about it quite eloquently and forcefully at the time, but sadly her post on it is now hidden behind a password wall. Basically, the issue was that a New Hot Young Male playwright won best play for his first produced play, while Beber got an emerging playwright prize despite having worked in the business for twenty years.
The whole controversy over the emerging title gets a lot of discussion in Outrageous Fortune, so I won't belabor it here, but I do think there's an air of condescending sexism about referring to established female writers in this kind of language:
Author Sarah Ruhl has worked intermittently on "Passion Play" for at least a dozen years. In the interim, with "The Clean House," "Eurydice" and "In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play" among other works premiering to her award-winning credit, Ruhl has dawned as a highly promising playwright.
Ruhl is one of the most produced and oddly controversial playwrights in America. She had a show on Broadway last year. She's had shows at 2nd Stage, at Lincoln Center, at Yale Rep and at most major institutions. She's won the MacArthur. She's not promising. She's either fulfilled that promise by now or she hasn't.
Male playwrights don't get talked about in this kind of way. You'd never read a critic saying that Neil LaBute showed promise.