In early 2016, amid the #OscarsSoWhite campaign spawned by two years of all-white acting nominees, the Academy announced the ambitious goal of doubling the number of female and non-white members by 2020.
Now, after the second consecutive year of a record number of new-member invitations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has actually achieved part of that goal — with three years to spare.
Between the 280 people of color who were invited to join last year and the 230-plus who are on this year’s list, the Academy has likely already doubled the number of non-white members it had when the diversity goal was announced.
“What is very important to us here is that people now understand we want diversity, we want inclusion,” AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs told TheWrap on Wednesday. “We’re not just talking – we’re taking action.”
Boone Isaacs did not bring up the fact that a goal had been achieved, and only acknowledged it when TheWrap brought it up. The Academy was able to double its number of non-white members, she said, “for many different reasons,” partly because more people of color felt as if they Academy wanted to include them and felt comfortable applying for membership.
“You set a goal for a reason,” she said. “Nothing is better than the understanding that people now have of what we’re trying to do.”
So a year and a half removed from the #OscarsSoWhite turmoil, the Academy is not going to stop to celebrate this milestone?
“That isn’t how we roll, kid,” she said, laughing. “The goal is there to measure your progress, but what’s important is the inclusion. Period.”
The Academy was able to invite a record number of members for the second year in a row, she added, because its members are now actively looking to increase the size and diversity of the Academy. “We still continue to find people who are not members,” she said.
“We’ve asked our members to become ambassadors for the organization, to recognize talent and suggest membership for those who maybe didn’t get in during the years when we had quotas” that restricted the number of new member invitations, she added. “I think that many more people now understand who we are, and are keen to become part of the organization.”
At the time that Boone Isaacs announced the goals of doubling the number of female and non-white members, the organization had a little more than 6,000 voting members, and was 75 percent male and 92 percent white.
Since then, it has invited more than 1,400 people to join, meaning the organization has increased its size by almost 25 percent in just a few years. Assuming that the majority of this year’s invitations are accepted, as they are every year, the Academy will go into the 2017 Oscar season 72 percent male and 87 percent white — certainly not representative of the country as a whole, but significantly more diverse than it was two years ago.
According to the Academy, the last three years have seen a 359 percent increase in the number of women invited to join, and a 331 percent increase in invitations to people of color.
As for the second part of Boone Isaacs’ goal — doubling the number of women members by 2020 — that is still a work in progress, and one that will not be easy to achieve.
To double the female membership, the Academy would probably have to add about 1,700 women by 2020. In both 2016 and 2017, it invited about 300 to join.
That means AMPAS has three more membership drives to add about 1,100 women. So even if it keeps up the impressive level of the last two years, it’ll fall about 200 short of the goal; to hit the mark, the Academy would need to invite about 370 women per year, a significant increase over the 2016 and 2017 totals.
That’s a tall order — but then again, many thought there was no way the Academy could invite as many new members this year as it did last year, much less blow by it by nearly 100.
“Throughout our membership, everybody is engaged,” said Boone Isaacs. “We will continue to find the best.”
And will she continue to be part of that after she steps down as president in August? “Oh, I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “It means fewer meetings, but other than that, I’m here.”