Downplaying the gains women and minorities have made in Hollywood in recent years – and the industry’s efforts to increase those numbers – UCLA’s “2017 Hollywood Diversity Report” says its goal is “to set the record straight with respect to the myths, half-truths, and excuses industry decision-makers have used to justify business-as-usual on the diversity front.”
But the report, while breaking little new ground, actually paints a gloomier picture than its own data supports. And it does so by presenting those gains in the form of percentage points, rather than in actual percentages — which tends to support its theory that despite all of the industry’s many diversity efforts, its leaders continue to operate on a “business as usual” basis.
For instance, the report notes that “the overall minority share of directors for broadcast scripted shows for 2014-15 was 13.9%, up more than 5 percentage points from the 8.6% figure observed from the season before.” But by framing it as a mere 5.3 percentage point increase, it makes the actual increase – a whopping 61.6% – sound much smaller than it really is.
And this is seen throughout the report. Elsewhere, it notes that “the overall minority share of credited writers of broadcast scripted shows for 2014-15 was 13.4%, up nearly 4 percentage points from the 9.7% share minorities claimed the previous season.” And while a 3.7 percentage point increase may not sound like much, it represents a 38.1% increase, which is a lot.
Similarly, the report found that “minorities accounted for 24% of the broadcast reality and other leads during the 2014-15 season, up more than 7 percentage points from the 16.7% figure posted in 2013-14.” In fact, that represents a 43.7% increase, which is much higher than a mere 7.3 percentage point increase would suggest.
In that same vein, the report found that:
- “The overall minority share of credited writers for digital scripted shows in 2014-15 was 10.8%, up 2 percentage points from the 8.8% figure a season earlier.” And while a 2 percentage point increase might not sound like much, it actually represents a 22.7% increase.
- “The overall female share of credited writers of cable scripted shows in 2014-15 was 30.6%, up 3 percentage points from the 27.6% figure the group posted the season before.” But a 3 percentage point increase is actually a 10.9% increase.
- “The overall female share of credited writers for broadcast scripted shows in 2014-15 was 35.9%, up more than 3 percentage points from the 32.5% figure observed for 2013-14.” Actually, the 3.4 percentage point gain represents a 10.5% gain.
Clearly, the percentage of women and minority writers and directors remains far below their numbers in the general public, and a small percentage point increase in an already small number can account for a large percentage increase – as an increase from 1% to 2% represents a 100% increase. But lowballing the gains that have been made suggests that the industry’s numerous diversity programs aren’t working as well as the reports its own data suggests they might have.
And as noted in the report, there are a lot of programs. Just to name a few: ABC/Disney has a diversity writing program, and so do Fox, HBO, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, CBS (which has two) and NBC, which has four. All the major studios, as mandated by the DGA’s contract, have diversity programs as well. CBS alone has four diversity projects, workshops and initiatives geared toward actors, and Warner Bros has an Emerging Professionals Program to help diversify its executive ranks. Sundance, Tribeca, AFI and Women in Film also have diversity projects.
The UCLA report acknowledges that women and minorities “have made some progress” since its last report a year ago, particularly in television, but notes that “despite these gains, minorities and women remained underrepresented on every measure in television during the 2014-15 season.
The report was authored by UCLA sociology professor Darnell Hunt, director of the Bunche Institute for African American Studies and a leading expert in the diversity field, who also authored the WGA’s 2016 diversity report. But those reports came to two significantly different conclusions about the magnitude of the underemployment of women film writers.
In the UCLA report, Hunt found that women received writing credits on only 9.2% of the 168 top-grossing films of 2015. But in the WGA report, he found that women were employed on 16.8% of all films released that year under WGA contacts.
Thus, by using a smaller pool of “top grossing” films in the UCLA report, he presented a number that was nearly half (45.2%) as small as the number of credited women film writers cited in the WGA report.
“It’s based on different data,” Hunt told Deadline. “It’s slightly different but definitely complementary.” The UCLA report, he said, was based on actual writing credits, while the WGA report was based on all paid writing under guild contracts, including polishes, rewrites and scripts for films that were sold but not produced. And the UCLA report looked at less than a quarter of the more than 700 films released in each of 2014 and 2015. “In some sense,” he said with respect to his finding on women film writers in the UCLA report, the WGA report is “more complete.”