Facing a backlash over the conspicuous lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees — including Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith vowing to sit out the upcoming awards show — the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement Monday promising “big changes.”
President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said she was “both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion” among the nominees and added, “The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.”
Those steps will include a review of the group’s membership “in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.” Boone Isaacs also said the academy has addressed challenges related to its constituency in the past, as when it recruited younger members in the 1960s and ’70s to stay relevant.
The academy does not disclose demographic information about its ranks, but a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times found the academy to be 94% Caucasian and 77% male, with a median age of 62. In recent years the group has increased efforts to diversify its membership, which numbers more than 6,000, but meaningful change has been slow.
Among this year’s Oscar contenders, all 20 acting nominees are white (for the second time in a row), and all the directing nominees are white men except Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who is Mexican. No black-themed films, such as Creed or Straight Outta Compton, received a best-picture nomination.
Read Boone Isaacs’ full statement:
I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.
As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.
This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ’60s and ’70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.