Diversity Improves Among TV Actors But Execs Still Largely White and Male, Study Finds

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UCLA's Hollywood Diversity Report found that women hold only a third of studio chair and CEO jobs and minorities just eight percent.

A new study is shedding light on the industry's efforts to be more inclusive.

The second part of UCLA's Hollywood Diversity Report found that while diversity has improved among television actors, executives still remain overwhelmingly white and male.  The analysis by researchers at the UCLA College discovered that women hold only 32 percent of studio chair and CEO jobs, while minorities just eight percent.

The findings echo part one of the report, which was published in February and analyzed diversity in the movie business. It similarly found that people of color make gains onscreen but not off. Part two of the study tracked two seasons of scripted broadcast, cable and digital programming, with a total of 453 shows from 2017 to 2018 and 463 shows from 2018 to 2019.

“There has been a lot of progress for women and people of color in front of the camera,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the division of social sciences in the UCLA College and a co-author of the report. “Unfortunately, there has not been the same level of progress behind the camera. Most notably in the executive suite, there has been very little change since we began compiling data five years ago. That’s very telling, particularly in light of our current racial reckoning.”

The study also found that women and minorities made gains in nearly all of the 13 television employment categories tracked by the report but that both groups still are not represented proportionately to their share of the U.S. population. White men still dominate the high-level TV executive jobs. As of this year, chair and CEO positions were largely held by white people (92 percent) and men (68 percent), and the statistics were similar for of senior executives (84 percent white, 60 percent male) and unit heads (87 percent white, 54 percent male).

On a more positive, note the researchers learned that representation of women and minorities in acting roles has improved since last year’s report. Of all lead acting slots on broadcast shows in 2018–19, people of color held 24 percent, almost a fivefold increase from 2011–12 when it was just 5 percent. They also found that ratings and social media engagement data show that audiences respond to diversity.

The analysis found that the greatest racial and gender disparities lie behind-the-camera with jobs such as show creator, writer and director. Across broadcast, cable and digital programming, only 24 percent of credited writers were minorities and only 22 percent of episodes were directed by minorities during the 2018 to 2019 season.

In digital programming and broadcast, just 10 percent of show creators were minorities. With cable, that number was only slightly higher at around 15 percent. In addition, women held just 29 percent of show creator titles for digital programs, 28 percent for broadcast and 22 percent for cable.

“Just as with film, it’s those at the top of the television industry who have the most power to foster talent and invest in programming,” said Ana-Christina Ramon, a co-author of the report and director of research and civic engagement in the UCLA division of social sciences. “The underrepresentation of people of color in the executive suite as creators, writers, and directors is problematic, even if there are more people of color in acting roles, because their characters’ storylines may lack authenticity or will be written stereotypically or even ‘raceless’ if the disparity continues.”

Women, People of Color Make Gains Onscreen But Not Off (Study)