Women and minorities are faring better in Hollywood and feature prominently at this year’s upcoming Oscars, but they are still underrepresented overall in the entertainment industry, according to the “2017 Hollywood Diversity Report.” The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California Los Angeles examined 200 top-grossing films released in 2015 as well as 1,206 television shows that aired or streamed during the 2014-15 season. It also tracked hiring of women and minorities, both on screen and behind the camera, in 11 job types.
“Since the last report, the good news is that minorities and women have made some progress, particularly in television, which is currently engaged in what might be characterized as a ‘Golden Age’,” the report said.
“The bad news is that despite these gains, minorities and women remained underrepresented on every measure in television during the 2014-15 season.”
This year, a record number of black actors were nominated for an Academy Award which is held on Sunday; however, the UCLA study clearly suggests that despite the inclusion of more black actors in this year’s nominations, “the exclusion of people of color and women from Hollywood remains a concern.”
“While there have been some improvements, especially in television, the numbers remain disheartening across the board,” said Darnell Hunt, the report’s lead author and director of the Bunche Center. “At the heart of it is the fact that Hollywood is simply not structured to make the most of today’s market realities.”
The study show that minorities make up 40 percent of the population in the United States but only 13.6 percent of lead actors in films and 10.1 percent of Hollywood directors. As for women, despite the fact that they make up 50 percent of the US population, they got just 29 percent of lead roles in films and fewer than 10 percent of the directors of the top 200 films in 2015 were women.
“In terms of sophistication of content, television might be considered to be in something of a golden age,” said Hunt, who also is chair of the UCLA sociology department. “But in terms of representation and opportunity, we still have a long way to go. White men are still dominant, and women and people of color struggle to get the opportunities to succeed.”
The report also shows that the lack of diversity in Hollywood also has a clear economic impact. Bunche Center research has consistently found that film and television content that is more diverse tends to be more successful both among white and minority audiences, and does better financially.
“Less-diverse product underperforms in the marketplace, and yet it still dominates,” said Ana-Christina Ramon, the report’s co-author and assistant director of the Bunche Center.
“This makes no financial sense.”