The diversity among both nominees and winners marks a win for the Academy, after receiving backlash and boycotts in both 2015 and 2016 when only white actors were nominated for the major 20 awards. In both years, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag trended on Twitter. Many celebrities chose not to attend the awards ceremony in protest.
There's still significant progress to be made. Much like many businesses, Hollywood still struggles with diversity, inclusion, and belonging. For instance, women are underrepresented as film directors by a factor of seven to one.
But lasting change can be made when you address the core issues that have limited advancement in the past. Here are the two factors the Academy Awards focused on to make significant gains in diversity--and how you can model their strategies to better your own workplaces:
In 2015, Viola Davis won an Emmy award for Outstanding Actress in a drama series. She was the first woman of color to ever claim that prize.
In her acceptance speech, she noted why it took so long: "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."
Women and women of color haven't gotten their fair share of recognition within the industry because, too often, they haven't had sufficient opportunities to earn it. UCLA's Hollywood Diversity Report 2018 showed that when it comes to film leads, film directors, and film writers, minorities and women are grossly underrepresented.
Last night, Regina King won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk. She won the Golden Globe last month for the same role. In her Golden Globe acceptance speech, she declared her commitment to level the playing field for women in everything she produces over the next two years.
As a leader, you need to use your platform to create opportunities for those who historically haven't had enough of them. A common complaint many companies have is that they "struggle" to find qualified talent among women and minorities.
If you still find this after expanding your search beyond traditional recruitment mechanisms, build the bridge that equips these underrepresented groups to seize these opportunities. Last year, I participated in SHINE Bootcamp, a program designed to prepare more women to speak on conference stages. Late last year, Google and PRX joined forces to create a comprehensive training program designed to increase the number of women and people of color in podcasting.
These are positive actions you can join or emulate.
Nominees and winners for each of the Oscar categories each year are voted on by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 2013, the LA Times reported that of the more than 6,000 members of the Academy, 93 percent white and 73 percent were male.
The homogeneity of those who have the power to recognize the merits of the ranges of performances within the industry poses a challenge to those whose craft shows up in a form that is different from what has historically been considered the marker of excellence.
Following the 2016 Oscars boycott, the Board of Governors of the Academy vowed to make changes to improve their track record. In a statement, the board announced plans for making change:
"The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved a sweeping series of substantive changes designed to make the Academy's membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse. The Board's goal is to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020."
Representation doesn't just normalize on its own. You have to make a concerted effort to make people in authority more reflective of the population they serve.
Start by setting clear goals of what you want your workforce to look like at all levels of your organization. Then, build a recruitment plan that enables you to find and get to know the diverse talent that is available to help you grow your business.
When Basecamp set out to make its workforce more representative of its customers, its leaders realized they needed to change the way they wrote job descriptions, expand the places they posted them, and adjust how they evaluated candidates. And it worked.
No matter your track record, forward progress can be made. Follow the lead of the Academy to make diversity, inclusion, and belonging a priority.
It's time we made the table bigger, so there are plenty of seats for everyone.