Women, minorities make modest gains in Hollywood

Cast member Michelle Yeoh poses at the premiere for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ in Los Angeles. (Reuters pic)

Woman and minorities have made modest gains in Hollywood in the past year but they remain underrepresented in the industry compared with their share of the population, according to a report released on Thursday.

The annual “Hollywood Diversity Report” – published by the University of California Los Angeles – examined 200 films released in 2017 and 1,316 television shows that aired or streamed during the 2016-17 season.

It also examined the hiring of women and minorities, both on screen and behind the camera, in 12 job categories, including lead roles, directing and writing.

“Behind the scenes and in front of the camera, advances for people of colour and women remain fairly incremental, if not stubbornly static,” the report’s authors said in a statement.

The study, released ahead of the Oscars this Sunday, found that films with more diverse casts – such as the hit movies “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Black Panther” – fared better at the box office.

But it also said that although the number of minority actors with lead roles in films had increased from 13.9% to 19.8% in 2017, that still did not represent that group’s share of the overall population, which is about 40% minority.

Women, meanwhile, held 32.9% of lead acting roles in movies – up nearly 2% from 2016, but still far short of their share of 50% of the overall population.

“We’ve seen modest advances when it comes to movies and films,” said Ana-Christina Ramon, a lead author of the study. “But deep-seated power systems – dominated by white male decision-makers at the highest levels – are hard to break.

“The kind of structural change necessary for a new order of business in the film industry has yet to happen, and pushing for it will require sustained vigilance and awareness.”

However, the report also noted that television has played a key role in opening doors for women and minorities, in part thanks to the phenomenal growth of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

“Something is happening in television with respect to diversity, and it just may point the way to a new beginning for the industry,” the report said.

“A profound confluence of technological and demographic change has created an environment today that is ripe for altering business as usual in the television sector.

“Perhaps there are lessons from the recent diversity gains transforming the television sector that can be applied to Hollywood more broadly,” it added.