It’s no secret that Hollywood has had a noticeable problem with diversity and inclusion for many years. Things seemed to be progressively improving until 2015 and 2016 when people realised there were no non-white individuals nominated for the 20 acting categories at the Academy Awards and the hashtag #Oscarssowhite began to trend.
UCLA just released part one of its annual Hollywood diversity report, an in-depth study on gender and racial diversity throughout the industry, coupled with measures introduced to solve the issue. Part two, focusing on the television sector, will be released in the fall of 2022.
The annual report showed several pieces of new information. The inclusion of women on-screen grew, with 47% of film leads being women and overall 42% of actors. Women and underrepresented groups – predominantly those of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American descent – had improved statistics but were still heavily underserved in director and film writer roles.
Women were just under 22% of directors and 33% of film writers. Plus non-white underrepresented individuals, of male and female genders, represented 30% of directors and 32% of film writers.
Women and racially underrepresented groups were also reported to have struggled substantially more to raise financing for films, and when they do they were at much lower budgets than white men.
Interestingly, and juxtaposed to the age-old Hollywood stigma in the 20th and, at the very least, the start of the 21st century that non-white people couldn’t lead movies and sell – apart from some key discrepancies of course – more diverse casts perform far better at the box office
Eight out of the top 10 films in 2021 had main casts that were at least 30% non-white. Films that had casts that were over 90% white had poor box office outings and were in the lowest 10% in regards to performance.
Warner Media’s Chief Inclusion Officer Christy Haubegger said on the current numbers, “Diversity is not the moral thing to do. Diversity is going to be how we win, especially in a global marketplace. Where we’re trying to go directly to consumers and appeal to them around the world.”
Alexandra McGroarty runs McGroarty & Co Consulting, a seasoned HR consultant on a local and global level. She holds a Certified Diversity Professional certification issued by the National Diversity Council and is currently pursuing a PhD.
“Whether you work in Hollywood or NYC, HR fundamentals are the same- we drive talent acquisition, hire and onboard new employees, manage payroll and benefits for the company, ensure compliance with all applicable employment and tax laws, manage employee and employer relations, and help drive high performing cultures,” McGroarty said.
She added: “The entertainment industry ends up being a kind of a reflection of our society. What people see every day is what they usually follow or they’re influenced by. Entertainment is what people see arguably the most, that’s why representation and diversity matter so much there specifically.”
McGroarty was clear that the Human Resources sector was key to changing the make-up of the entertainment industry as a whole and is decisive in influencing top-tier individuals.
“If you look at the entertainment industry’s top executives, there is quite a bit of work to do on diversity, equity and inclusion. non-white groups continue to be underrepresented in many aspects of the business.”
As well as targeting diversity and inclusion McGroarty brought up how many HR departments throughout entertainment had been dropping the ball for decades. The #Metoo movement for her was a glaring indication of how human resources wasn’t serving several sectors as it should have been.
“One of the things that Hollywood HR departments are dealing with today is the fallout from accusations of sexual abuse and harassment that has taken place in the industry for decades…and today’s movie industry HR departments have many messes to clean up.”
“Unfortunately, they may have had a hand in causing some of the problems they now have to respond to by not taking complaints seriously or not having rigorous enough protections for their workers.”
The Hollywood shift with the movement caused reverberations throughout the world with the entertainment industry being at the forefront.
Women, and men, stood up to harassment and discrimination starting a wide-spreading public campaign as well as significant legal action.
McGroarty continued: “This reckoning has shaken the HR industry throughout the country. The #MeToo movement, which started in Hollywood but has now shifted to affect numerous industries and fields unrelated to movie-making.”
“It should be a reminder to HR departments that sexual harassment and discrimination should be taken seriously from the very start. Training employees to recognize, report, and appropriately respond to sexual harassment accusations can prevent lawsuits, scandals, and public relations crises. More importantly, doing these things makes the workplace safer for everyone.”
The Academy now has an initiative to increase diversity in studios’ output over the next few years. In a statement explaining the new scheme they said:
“Our values at the Academy are based on the belief that arts and sciences, including the arts and sciences of filmmaking, thrive from diversity.”
“This belief, coupled with our mission to recognize and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts and sciences, inspire imagination, and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures, requires a commitment to representation, inclusion and equity. There are so many stories that need to be told and have not yet been told – we want to encourage this across the industry.”