The Academy Responds to Oscars Diversity Criticism with Historic Vote
But on Thursday night, decision-makers at the Academy voted to amplify minority representation at their awards show. USA Today reported leaders have pledged to double the amount of Academy members who are women or people of color by the year 2020. “The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.” The Los Angeles Times newspaper published a report in 2012, which suggested those given the privilege to vote for Academy Awards nominees were 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male. The Academy governors have outlined a detailed plan to diversify the institution by their 2020 deadline. Executives have decided to limit the power of members who have not been active in the film industry for extended periods of time – starting later in 2016, and new members will have to renew their membership every 10 years. Meanwhile, lifetime voting rights will only be extended to Academy members who have qualified for renewal for three consecutive terms. Shawn Edwards, co-founder of the African-American Film Critics Association, believes this is a tremendous step forward following this year’s Oscars controversy, which has prompted African-American stars like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and Tyrese Gibson to boycott the event. “Right now the academy is too top-heavy old,” Edwards said. “This change means that Academy members can’t necessarily be like a Supreme Court judge and ride this out for life. This will bring a whole different ball game and bring a whole different attitude and generational dynamic, a different appreciation of pop culture.” African-American filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who many expected to score a Best Director nomination for Selma last year, is also pleased with the Academy’s new position on diversity issues. “One good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color + women artists,” she wrote on Twitter in a message attached to an official letter sent to her from members of the Academy.