Diversity Study Shows Prevalence of Straight White Men in Power

Ahead of entertainment’s most exclusive and glamorous night of the year, The Oscars, a new study demonstrates just how exclusive film and television can be when it comes to women, people of color and the LGBT community. The results reveal that the prequel to #OscarsSoWhite is #HollywoodSoWhite.

The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD) is the first of its kind — an exhaustive analysis and ranking of film, television and digital streaming services that catalogues speaking characters, people behind the camera, CEOs and executives.

Authored by professor Stacy L. Smith and released by the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the analysis found that only 28.3% of all speaking characters across 414 films, television and digital episodes in 2014-15 were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. This is 9.6% below the U.S. population norm of 37.9%. One-third (33.5%) of speaking characters were female. Behind the camera, a mere 15.2% of all directors and 28.9% of writers across film and every episode of television and digital series were female. Less than one-quarter (22.6%) of series creators were women across broadcast, cable and streaming content.

“This is no mere diversity problem. This is an inclusion crisis,” said Smith, Founding Director of the MDSC Initiative. “Over half of the content we examined features no Asian or Asian-American characters, and over 20% featured no African-American characters. It is clear that the ecosystem of entertainment is exclusionary.”

The report examined 109 films released by major studios and their art-house divisions in 2014. Additionally, 305 television and digital series across 31 networks and streaming services were analyzed. Smith and her team evaluated over 11,000 speaking characters for gender, racial and ethnic representation, and LGBT status. Additionally, in excess of 10,000 directors, writers, and show creators, along with more than 1,500 executives at the different media companies studied were evaluated based on gender.

None of the six film distributors examined received a passing grade on the Inclusion Index. Of the 30 tests conducted, 24 or 80% yielded a Not Inclusive ranking. On a standard academic scale where 100% equals a perfect score, no film distributor earned a final inclusion grade above 25% across all tests.

The Inclusion Index for television and digital content revealed places for improvement and a few bright spots. Of the 50 tests conducted, seven Fully Inclusive and nine Largely Inclusive scores were awarded across the 10 companies evaluated on TV/digital content. The Walt Disney Company and The CW Network were the strongest performers in television, while for streaming content, Hulu and Amazon tied.

The report also assessed the executive ranks of the 10 companies. Roughly one-fifth of all chief executives, corporate boards, and executive management teams were comprised of women. Near gender parity was reached in television at the Executive Vice President level. Across film, television, and digital divisions, women were 46.7% of all Senior Vice President-level positions.

The report is the latest from the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative. Located at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, this is the first signature study of its Institute for Diversity and Empowerment, a research center examining inclusivity across media industries. IDEA’s goal is to make positive, long-lasting change and facilitate civic engagement.

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