The number of acting roles for people of color is closer to being proportionate with the US population.
Is Hollywood finally doing better and accounting for diversity in roles? Or is this too good to be true?
Let’s take a look at the trends from 2011 to 2019.
Who makes all these decisions?
In 2018, the global box office for films passed $41 billion in 2018, with $11.9 billion from the US/Canada market.
But who makes these important film and genre release decisions that make it big in the box office?
Hollywood executives are the ones who look over movie budgets, film types and genres, and their marketing.
In 2020, these decisions were made by White men, and the heads of these studios were 91% White and 82% male. Senior management teams were 93% White and 80% male.
For more context, America is 40% minority, and 50% female.
The sad truth is that as heavily disproportionate these numbers are, they are still an improvement from Hollywood even 5 years ago.
Moving down from senior management are unit heads (responsible for casting), who are 86% White, and 69% male—a slight improvement.
About 3 out of 10 lead actors in films are people of color and only 44% of all lead actors are women.
Hollywood is catching on to how diversity sells, and minority and female roles have been gradually increasing.
Lead roles for people of color since 2011 have almost tripled to 2019 (from 10.5% to 27.6%) and are edging closer to being proportionate to the US population. People of color took 32.7% of all film roles in 2019.
Women took 44.1% of leads in top films in 2019, almost eradicating the gender gap. However, Black, Latinx, and Native women are underrepresented.
On the other hand, lead roles for Asians and multiracial women were either equal to males, or rose above the proportionate representations in these roles.
Disproportionate decisions off-screen
Only 1.5 out of 10 film directors are people of color. And film directors are the people who decide what stories to tell and how to tell them.
In 2019, in order to have proportionate representation to the US population, people of color would have to almost triple in being directors. Only 15.1% of film directors were people of color, and this number actually declined from 19.3% in 2018.
The 2011-2019 time period saw a 4x growth in the number of women directors, from 4.1% in 2011 to 15.1% in 2019. Yet this is still a far stretch from 84.9% of male directors in 2019, with only 1.5 out of 10 film directors being female.
The numbers are even worse for writers, with people of color only representing 1.4 out of 10 film writers.
Hollywood is casting more people of color and women, but off-camera, there isn’t much diversity in those making the executive decisions for weighing what stories matter.