Hollywood diversity hiring efforts are ‘performative’: study

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Greta Gerwig, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé have had the industry proclaim 2023 the Year of the Woman.

Even the Times announced 2023 as the year women saved Hollywoodhighlighting the commercial success of films such as “Barbie” and the concert films “Eras” and “Renaissance”.

Yet despite these accolades, Hollywood studios still fail to translate this success into real gains in diversity. This is what the latest findings from the University of Southern California reveal. Annenberg Inclusion Initiativewhich found that progress in hiring women and people of color as directors stalled last year.

The study ultimately placed the blame on the hiring practices of major Hollywood studios. He also blasted studios' promises of greater inclusion following the killing of George Floyd and the #StopAsianHate movement, calling them “performative acts” and “not real measures to drive change.”

“One film or one director is simply not enough to create the radical change that is still needed behind the camera,” the study says. “Until studios, executives and producers change the way they decide who is qualified and available to work as a director on blockbuster films, there is little reason to believe optimism is justified. “

The study, released Tuesday, looked at the highest-grossing films from 2007 to 2023 and found that last year, of the 116 directors included in the study, 12.1% were women. This is a slight improvement compared to 2022, when 9% of the highest-grossing directors were women.

Women of color fared even worse, accounting for just 3.4% of top-grossing directors in 2023. That's few enough to count on one hand: Adele Lim, “Joy Ride”; Céline’s song, “Past Lives”; Fawn Veerasunthorn, “Wish”; and Nia DaCosta, “The Marvels,” who was the only Black female director to make the list. However, this is still a slight increase from the 2.7% seen in the 2022 study.

And for directors from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups across the board, including Black, Latino, and Asian creators, a similar story is playing out. In 2023, less than a quarter of directors were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. This is consistent with about 20% of directors in 2022 being people of color and several steps behind 2021, which had nearly 30%.

The study's authors, USC professors Stacy Smith, founder of the initiative, and Katherine Pieper, director of the program, then outlined the root causes of this lack of progress.

“For companies and industry members who want to believe that the director problem is solved, it is far from solved,” Smith said in a statement announcing the study. “To see real progress, the hiring decision-making process must change, and the reasons why women and people of color still face barriers must be addressed. »

Barriers cited by the study authors include lack of access to money to finance projects, leading to a lack of work samples to show to hiring studios. Suggested solutions included activism calling for fair hiring and studios simply changing their hiring practices from within.

The study calls on studios to have more diverse candidate lists when recruiting for projects, getting rid of the idea that a film with a white lead actor needs a white director, as well as the idea that hiring a woman or person of color to direct a film remains a “risk.”

“When the entertainment industry thinks director, it always thinks man,” the authors said. “In particular, they think about white men.”

Times staff writers Tracy Brown, Greg Braxton and Meg James contributed to this report.

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