Following widespread backlash from this year’s all-white Oscar acting and directing nominations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced “historic action” to make its membership, governing bodies, and voting members more diverse. The Board promises to double the number of women and “diverse members” of the Academy by 2020.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”
Criticism of an overwhelmingly white Oscar voter and nominee pool came to a front this month with protests from Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith, as well as a large social media movement named #OscarsSoWhite. While Lee is glad the Academy is taking steps in the right direction, he still won’t attend the award ceremony this year. “We have principles,” Lee said to the Associated Press this weekend. “I commend the Academy for what they’ve done. But that does not change our mind.”
The Academy is currently made up of around 6,200 members who work in the film industry. An L.A. Times study found that the voters were 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male. Black members comprise roughly 2 percent of voters, and Latino members comprise less than 2 percent.
The initiative will bring many new female and minority members into the Academy, establish three new governor seats, and limit voting abilities for inactive or retired members. In order to bring in new members, the Academy plans an “ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.”
While the changes won’t affect this year’s awards, we’re sure that the hot topic will be highlighted both implicitly and explicitly at the ceremony. The 88th Academy Awards will take place on February 28, 2016.