There's a problematic discrepancy between what viewers want and what Hollywood gives them.  

According to the second annual Hollywood Diversity Report, which analyzed TV ratings and box office revenue between 2012 and 2013, American audiences tend to prefer movies and TV shows with more diverse casts. The film industry's racial and gender composition is nowhere near representative of the nation as a whole, as The Hollywood Reporter noted.

In a snapshot that looks an awful lot like Silicon Valley's tech sector, the Hollywood Diversity Report found that minorities in film lagged by more than 2-to-1 in lead roles and by 2-to-1 as directors, with women lagging by 2-to-1 as leads and by an overwhelming 8-to-1 as directors. TV was even worse: Minorities in leading roles on broadcast shows lagged by 6-to-1, while women lagged by more than 50 percent. 

Although the report's co-authors, Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramon, admitted that they did not analyze data from 2014-2015, Hollywood hasn't fared much better in recent months, at the least in terms of diversity recognition in film. Look no farther than the overwhelmingly white and male Oscars ballot this year, prompting the Twitter backlash #OscarsSoWhite in the weeks leading up to the awards ceremony. (Director Ava DuVernay was notably snubbed for Selma, which was the first ever feature-length film made about Dr. Martin Luther King. And David Oyelowo, who played King in the movie, was also conspicuously absent from the list of Best Actor nominees.)

So what gives? It's not a lack of consumer demand for diversity. In fact, the study found that broadcast TV casts with 41 to 50 percent minority actors scored the highest ratings in both black and white households. Rather, the issue stems from the agencies, guilds, studios, and networks that do the hiring, according to the report's authors, which they described as "an industry culture that routinely devalues the talent of minorities and women." 

Sound familiar? EBay, the most gender-diverse tech company based in Silicon Valley, is composed of 76 percent male workers globally. And in the world of entrepreneurship, only 4.2 percent of women founders receive venture capital, according to the Center for Talent Innovation. On top of that, just 15 percent of minority-owned firms received VC funding in 2013, compared to 22 percent of businesses overall, Forbes.com reported. Hurdles for women in business aren't just financial, either: Sexism in tech is alive and well, if these boneheaded comments are any indication.  

The reason executive suites hire so few women and minorities may have to do with the fact that "people have a better eye for talent when it looks like them and has the same background as them," as Time Warner's executive director of diversity and corporate social responsibility told The Hollywood Reporter. And while those recruiting efforts may not be malicious, they do tend to make matters worse (and less diverse). Silicon Valley tech companies reflect a similar tunnel vision when they recruit from the same brand-name schools and startup circles again and again.

When will California's darlings finally make greater strides in hiring casts of characters that finally reflect reality? Not soon enough.

Published on: Feb 26, 2015