#OscarsSoWhite: Don’t Just Change Demographics, Change Culture

#OscarsSoWhite: Don’t Just Change Demographics, Change Culture

Following the recent controversy over the lack of non-white acting nominees for this year’s Oscars, the New York Times analyzed the demographics of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences to gauge how hard it would be for the organization to meaningfully diversify its voting membership. Using public and private databases, they compiled basic racial outlines of the more than 1,100 members who control the acting nominations for the Academy Awards. In doing so, they found (and confirmed with an Academy spokesperson) that:

Roughly 87 percent are white. About 58 percent are male. As many as two-thirds are at least 60 years old…Along with the white members, about 6 percent are black, under 4 percent are Hispanic and less than 2 percent are Asian. Women make up about 42 percent of the branch.

They then ran the numbers to calculate how many of people of color the Academy would have to add each year to meet its goal of doubling the number of minorities in its membership by 2020:

Over the next five years, the academy would have to annually add about 14 black actors and at least nine actors who were either Asian or Hispanic to double the number of acting branch members in those ethnic groups. That would account for almost all of the slots if it invited 25 actors, which is how many were offered membership last year. To attain gender parity among actors in five years, the academy could more than triple the number of annual admissions, to 80, while adding three women for every man. Assuming a typical annual attrition rate of about 26 people (largely because of death), the branch membership would be about 51 percent women by 2020, but women would then far outnumber men among the younger members.

Now, the details of the Academy’s demographics are very interesting, and the challenges it faces should resonate with any organization in which committees are making decisions, whether with regard to recognition or hiring. Especially in predominantly white and male industries, how can organizations ensure that decision-making committees are conscious of diversity and inclusion?

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