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Academy Acting Branch Is 87 Percent White, NY Times Study Finds

The paper also explains just how challenging it will be to diversify membership in wake of #OscarsSoWhite controversy

The Academy’s acting branch is 87 percent white and nearly 58 percent male, a New York Times report said Friday, with two-thirds of that branch aged at least 60.

Six percent of the AMPAS actors are black, less than 4 percent are Hispanic and under 2 percent are Asian, according to the paper’s investigation. Women account for about 42 percent of the branch’s members.

An Academy spokesperson confirmed the statistics, making it the first significant piece of data about the voting body since a 2012 survey conducted by the Los Angeles Times. The actor’s division has the largest membership, more than other branches such as writers and directors.

The Times report provides a rare glimpse into one of the key groups that select Oscar nominees and winners — and suggests the challenges AMPAS will face in its efforts to diversify its membership.

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced an unprecedented diversity push in January after criticism over another crop of overwhelmingly white nominees. The organization’s initiative has a 2020 deadline, and the actor’s branch data serves as a legitimate model of what will be required to achieve the stated goals.

To double the number of non-white and female members by 2020, the Times explained, the Academy would need to invite 14 black actors per year as members, nine Asian or Hispanic actors — and three women for every man to achieve gender parity. That would require tripling the number of people invited to join the Academy each year.

“There will be a much more actionable process this year,” Isaacs told The Times.

TheWrap’s Awards Editor Steve Pond underscored that membership would need to grow exponentially to accommodate the goal — and would need a healthy dose of transparency to match.

For over a decade, the Academy has released the list of people who are invited to join the organization, but never acknowledges who accepts — and, crucially, they’ve never announced the full list of members who were already in.

To really gauge the success of the new diversity efforts, the Academy would need to disclose its membership changes over the next four years. Without full documentation, information about the initiative will be incomplete and piecemeal.

The initiative is not without its critics — especially due to a policy that would remove voting power from members no longer active in the entertainment industry. Others have said that racial and gender politics should not influence artistic judgement.

Boone Isaacs told The Times that voting decisions would remain personal, but Academy membership had to change to “represent more of the working community, and also to become closer to the audience in general.”

The 88th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, airs February 27 on ABC. 

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