Last month’s Emmy Awards were notable for their glaring lack of diversity, with shows by white creators and starring predominantly white casts taking home most of the night’s top prizes. In the latest edition of an annual Hollywood diversity survey, this pattern is also documented. There have been gains in some areas ― especially in on-screen representation — but many of them are modest at best.

This article was published Tuesday the Hollywood Diversity ReportFrom the University of California Los Angeles, hundreds of television programs were examined in 2019. Led by UCLA researchers Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramón, the report found that of the 2019-20 shows on broadcast or digital platforms, “not a single scripted show created solely by a person of color won an Emmy.” In addition, “for broadcast and digital, the shows most likely to win an Emmy for 2019-20 were among those with the least diverse casts.”

Michaela Coel, creator, writer, director and star of HBO's "I May Destroy You," was one of the few TV creators of color who won an Emmy at last month's ceremony.
Michaela Coel (creator, writer, director, and star on HBO’s I May Destroy You) was among the few television creators from color that won an Emmy award at last month’s ceremony.
Cliff Lipson/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Emmys and other awards are significant because it gives visibility to the winners as well as the projects. These awards can have a significant impact on the direction of future projects. This lack of diversity is indicative of larger industry problems. According to the UCLA report which details the breakdown of the representation of women, people of color, among the leading actors, casts creators directors writers and producers working on 461 scripted TV programs for broadcast, cable, and digital platforms, the 2019-20 season. Researchers earlier in the year. released the first part of the studyThese movies were released between 2020 and 2021.

It has been almost a decade. Hunt and Ramón’s annual reportsHave found audiences gravitate toward movies and TV shows with more diverse casts — meaning that when Hollywood executives don’t prioritize diversity, they’re leaving money on the table.

Moreover, their research, like many other studies on diversity in front of and behind the camera, has repeatedly shown that movies and TV shows with more equitable representation on screen are more likely to get made in the first place when there’s more equitable representation off screen. Hollywood is slow to catch up and has made only incremental improvements over the years.

About 42.7% of Americans identified as people of color in last year’s Census. According to Tuesday’s report, people of color overall reached proportional representation in terms of the racial diversity of broadcast TV show cast members during the 2019-20 season. Equally, proportional representation is being achieved on both cable and digital TV shows. These gains have been primarily seen in Black lead characters and other multiracial leads.

The researchers warn that Latinx and Asian people remain underrepresented, and Native and Indigenous people are “virtually invisible” on screen. The low levels of Latinx representation are particularly egregious, as Latinx people make up almost 20% of the U.S. population ― and almost half the population of Los Angeles, where many of these TV shows are written, filmed and produced.

Women and people of colour have seen modest improvements in their ability to make shows for themselves in an industry dominated by white and male TV producers. However, they still have a ways to go before reaching proportional representation.

Issa Rae (right), creator and star of HBO's "Insecure," and co-star Yvonne Orji (left) arrive at the final season premiere of the show on Oct. 21 in Los Angeles.
Issa Rae, creator and star HBO’s Insecure (right), and co-star Yvonne Orji are seen arriving at the last season premiere of Insecure on Oct. 21st in Los Angeles.
Emma McIntyre, via Getty Images

The UCLA report found that cable channels had 20.6% of their creators being of color in 2019, which is an unprecedented high. Digital platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have done less than one would expect. In 2019-20, only 14.7% of digital show creators were of color. This is down from 16.5% in 2016-17 and 15.7% in 2015.-16. In 2019-20, just 30% of digital show creators were women. After a high of 34% in 2016-17, this percentage has remained steady at 30% over the past few years.

Broadcast networks still attract millions of viewers every week. In 2019, only 9.8% of the show creators were people from color and 24.1% were female. These figures are essentially the same as they were in the last few years.

Even a single or few shows, which have had such small gains in the past, could make a big difference. For example, in 2018-19, 0% of the season’s Emmy-winning cable scripted shows were created by a person of color, according to the report. By the 2019-20 season, that figure had jumped to 12.5%, thanks to a single show ― HBO’s “Insecure,” created by and starring Issa Rae.

These issues are complex and deeply rooted. The report reveals that the majority of Hollywood’s responsibility for creating a diverse Hollywood rests with network and studio executives who continue to be predominantly white men.

Their decisions about which shows get made “set the parameters by which everything else evolves,” the researchers wrote in Tuesday’s report. “Only when women and people of color are integrated into these defining spaces — and in meaningful proportions — will Hollywood truly solve its diversity problem.”

Check out the complete report here


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