Hollywood diversity progress masks behind-scenes failings

2 min

Los Angeles (AFP)

Women and minorities made major gains in Hollywood acting roles last year, but key behind-the-scenes jobs such as directing remain shockingly low for diversity, a study found Thursday.

The annual report was published three days before the Oscars, which have been slammed for overlooking minorities -- Cynthia Erivo is the sole non-white acting nominee.

The 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report reveals progress in the broader movie industry beyond award shows.

Women and minorities "are within striking distance of proportionate representation when it comes to lead roles and total cast," said co-author Darnell Hunt, of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) social sciences division.

Women had 44.1 percent of lead acting roles in blockbusters last year.

People of color -- slightly more than 40 percent of the US population, including black, latino and Asian people -- had 27.6 percent of leading roles.

But statistics on the dearth of diversity in directing, editing and executive jobs show "a very different story," suggesting Hollywood's progress is limited to on-camera roles.

Most shockingly, 93 percent of all senior executive positions were held by white people, and 80 percent by men.

While both the Oscars and Golden Globes were hit with fierce criticism for failing to nominate a single female director this year, the report also shows wider problems across the industry.

Just 15.1 percent of directors were women -- though even that was an improvement on 7.1 percent a year earlier.

"Are we actually seeing systematic change, or is Hollywood just appealing to diverse audiences through casting, but without fundamentally altering the way studios do business behind the camera?" said Hunt.

The report hints at one potential explanation for the growth in acting roles for minorities which may appeal to Hollywood executives -- profit.

In 2019, the films that performed best at the box office featured casts composed of between 41 percent and 50 percent minority actors.