SAG-AFTRA On Diversity: “This Moment Isn’t Only About Race”


SAG-AFTRA has weighed in on the lack of diversity in Hollywood, releasing a statement today saying: “We proudly wish to publicly speak to our partners throughout the entertainment and news media with an invitation to continue the dialogue and, perhaps most importantly, suggest solutions to the situation in which we still find ourselves in 2016.” (Read the full statement below.)

But while SAG-AFTRA’s statement offers to “suggest solutions,” it not did offer any.

“A lack of diversity permeates our industry and SAG-AFTRA as an organization is committed to affecting change,” said SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard. “Our Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity Department is solely dedicated to making change on the front line, but inclusivity is something we care deeply about throughout all facets of our union.”

Last year, the union scrapped plans to conduct a comprehensive five-year survey of the employment of women and minority actors in the film and TV industry, saying that any numbers the union might put out “would simply be that our information is consistent with what can be found in published reports.”

What can’t be found in published reports – and which only the union can offer – is the actual disparity in earnings for women, minority and older actors compared with their younger white male counterparts. For many years prior to the merger of SAG and AFTRA in 2012, SAG released detailed data on earnings inequality. Year after year, those reports showed that men out-earned women under SAG-covered work by a margin of 2-to-1, and that the margin grew even wider as actresses grew older.

Today’s SAG-AFTRA release comes on the heels of similar statements issued last month by the presidents of the DGA and the WGA West. Unlike SAG-AFTRA, however, those two guilds continue to provide detailed annual reports on the employment of women and minorities – something SAG quit doing in 2010 and which AFTRA never did at all.

“There does seem to be momentum now towards inclusiveness,” said SAG-AFTRA EVP Gabrielle Carteris. “But we won’t really see change happen until those in authority take responsibility and choose to make decisions based on authenticity. These decisions directly impact which stories and people are present and, more importantly, which are missing.”

Here is the union’s full statement, credited to the SAG-AFTRA President’s Task Force on
Education, Outreach and Engagement and the SAG-AFTRA Diversity Advisory Committee. It was approved unanimously in a joint meeting of the groups on February 3:

It is a founding principle and included in our union’s mission statement that: “It is a core value of SAG-AFTRA that our strength is in our diversity. We are committed to the broadest employment and involvement of our members, regardless of race, national origin, ancestry, color, creed, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, veteran status, gender identity or expression, age or disability. SAG-AFTRA strives to educate and engage members so that they may be full participants in the workings of their union. We are proud to be a model of inclusion, democratic organization and governance.”

We proudly wish to publicly speak to our partners throughout the entertainment and news media with an invitation to continue the dialogue and, perhaps most importantly, suggest solutions to the situation in which we still find ourselves in 2016:

  • This moment isn’t only about race. This isn’t only about the lack of faces and voices of color. This is about disability. This is about age. This is about gender and gender identity. This is about sexual orientation. This is about the diversity of our stories, of our experiences, of our perspectives. So many of these are, right now, missing from our screens.

  • SAG-AFTRA members work in the most visible workplace on the planet and we will continue to use this visibility to shine a light on the inequity that still exists throughout all levels of the entertainment and news media—in terms of opportunity, treatment and compensation.

  • Statistical representation is a helpful tool to measure progress but isn’t the ultimate goal. It’s about more and better jobs for all of our members; in particular those who have been historically and categorically denied opportunities to compete for these jobs.

  • Greater inclusion is needed throughout every level: from executive suites, to writers’ rooms; from agencies to the cast and crew members on-set. All the greenlighters and gatekeepers need to understand that this is a business imperative and not a politically correct luxury—audiences are choosing authenticity over platitudes and will continue to make those choices with their time and their money.

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