A debate about diversity has roiled the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that hands out the Oscars every year. For two straight years, the awards body was slammed for failing to nominate minorities in the major acting categories. When nominations were announced last week, however, it seemed like this year’s crop of honorees were a more inclusive bunch. Seven out of the 20 acting nominees were people of color, tying a record set in 2007. It was a group that included Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, and Viola Davis, with the best picture nominees boasting three films — “Moonlight,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Fences” — that deal with the subject of race.
That kind of progress didn’t extend to women in non-acting categories. The number of female Oscar nominees dropped two percentage points, according to an analysis by the Women’s Media Center. No female directors were nominated and only one female screenwriter, Allison Schroeder, was recognized for her work — co-authoring the “Hidden Figures” script. In total, 80% of all non-acting nominees across 19 categories were men, and some major categories, such as cinematography and original screenplay, contained no female honorees.
Historically, the Academy’s track record is a spotty one. From 2005 to 2016, women accounted for just 19% of all non-acting Oscar nominations, the group found.
The Women’s Media Center is a nonprofit organization founded by actress Jane Fonda, writer Robin Morgan, and political activist Gloria Steinem with the goal of improving the representation of and opportunities for women in media. Its findings come on the heels of a report this month by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film that found that women comprised just 7% of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases last year. That represented a decline of two percentage points from 2015. The report also found that women made up only 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the highest grossing films of 2016. The Women’s Media Center drew a line between that lack of representation in the industry and the paucity of female nominees.
“Clearly, women cannot get through the door and if they cannot get through the door, they cannot be recognized — and rewarded — for their excellence and impact,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, in a statement.
When it comes to the Oscars, there were a few signs of improvement. Nine women were nominated as producers in the best picture category, the most nominations for women in any category, and Ava DuVernay directed “13th,” a look at the mass incarceration of African Americans, to a best documentary nomination. Other breakthroughs included Mica Levi, who became the first woman nominated for original score in 16 years with “Jackie,” and Joi McMillan, who became the first African American woman ever nominated in editing for her work on “Moonlight.”