The decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to invite into its ranks 683 new members — its largest, most diverse class ever – earned the organization a somewhat less derisive Twitter hashtag, #OscarsNotSoWhite. But even though the group is 46 percent female and 41 percent people of color, those numbers will barely move the needle on the overall percentage of female and minority members in the academy, which is best known for nominating and selecting the Oscar winners each year.
And the bigger problem in Hollywood remains the lack of diversity in the film and television industry as a whole. Until the industry makes a concerted effort to hire a more diverse roster of directors and writers, rethink casting decisions and trust the bankability of actors who are not white men, there will be a substantial imbalance.
That said, the academy deserves some credit for enlarging its membership and pushing its boundaries — it literally scoured the globe for candidates — to bring in professionals from a wider array of backgrounds. Clearly they were out there. Many of the people invited have been doing well-regarded work for years.
Lambasted for its overwhelming white male ranks, and flogged with #OscarsSoWhite tweets after going two straight years without nominating an actor of color for an Oscar, the academy took its mission to diversify seriously. This week’s invitations represent a strong step toward fulfilling the initiative President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (herself a black woman) announced in January to double the number of women and minorities in the academy by 2020.
A more diverse group of professionals inside the academy could speed the pace of change in the industry in which they work. There’s still more for the academy to do — besides finding even more people of color — but let’s give it the award for most improved casting.