Oscars Diversity Push Makes the Academy More International, but There’s Still Work to Be Done
Progress, though. Progress!
This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences admitted a record 322 members, which should boost them over the 7,000-member mark. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson have both made diversifying the organization a priority, and this is certainly a step in the right direction. However, recent research done by The Hollywood Reporter into the new members points out areas that still need improvement, even as other areas are doing better.
This infographic from THR breaks down the stats on the new crop of Academy members. While the membership has become increasingly international, with Snowpiercer‘s South Korean director Bong Joon-ho and Argentine writer-director Damian Szifron (Wild Tales) now part of the club, only 22% of the newly-invited members were women, and 25% were minorities. What’s more, only 28% of new actors were women, and only 11.5% of directors were women. That seems disheartening, despite the good intentions.
I was prompted to look into what it takes to even become a member of the Academy, and the very first hurdle is exactly the reason why diversity is so important. Membership review happens once a year, and before you can even be considered, you have to be sponsored by two Academy members in the branch you want to join, which means that you have to already be working at a certain level. As people tend to recommend people who are friends and/or with whom they’ve worked, you can see how an organization like this could remain so predominantly white and predominantly male for so long. If you’re a white guy who knows a lot of other white guys and works with a lot of white guys, when the time comes for Academy sponsorship, you’ll likely be sponsoring your white guy friends to get in.
So, even though these numbers might appear small, now that they’re here, they can only increase as these new women and people of color will likely be sponsoring other women and people of color, and growth will be exponential.
Looking at this chart, there’s plenty of reason for hope. After all, non-white people make up 48% of the new Academy writers, and 33% of the new executives admitted were women! The new members are mostly in their 30s and 40s who’ve grown up with very different ideas about gender, race, and class than older members. As they continue to shape and vote in the Academy, my hope is that AMPAS will be guided by a more feminist, multicultural sensibility. Because it shouldn’t only be women and people of color nominating other women and PoCs. The white, male membership has a responsibility to make this a priority, too.
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