We don’t have to look much beyond the lack of race and gender diversity of the current presidential candidates to see how much our societal discourse in the US is dominated by the world view of white men. In fact, some fear that last week’s Republican debate may have hurt the GOP in the eyes of women. According to Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion:
“So much of the debate was all about appealing to male voters and other parts of the Republican base, rather than doing anything to help the party’s general election goal of trying to be more inclusive.”
And Margaret Hoover, a Republican consultant and author of American Individualism, says of the first debate:
“Not one candidate attempted to persuade women voters.”
It’s not just in politics that white men dominate, but also in the tech world, in film and television and in the media in general.
SILICON VALLEY AND THE TECH WORLD
Because of pressure put on the companies by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Linkedin, Microsoft and Apple, recently released data on diversity among their workforces. In general 10% were Black or Latino compared to 27% in the overall workforce. According to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, of the 189 board directors at 20 leading tech companies only 36 are female, three are Black, and one is Latino.
At Facebook, the workforce is:
- 16% Female
- 3% Latino
- 3% Black
Google’s workforce is:
- 30% Female
- 3% Latino
- 2% Black
Overall, tech workers are:
- 25% Female
- 17% Asian
- 7% Black
- 6% Latino
Overall US workforce is:
- 47% Female
- 63% Male
- 64% White
- 16% Latino
- 11% Black
- 5% Asian
According to The Women’s Media Center, inequality among journalists persists in nearly all media outlets and across nearly all issues. Here are some conclusions from the Executive Summary of The Status of Women in the US Media 2015:
- Male bylines or credit in print, internet, TV, and wire news: 62%
- Women in the newsroom: 31%
- TV news employees: 58.8 % male, 41.2% female.
- TV news directors: 69.2% male, 30.8% female (a record high)
- TV news general managers: 93% white, 7% minorities
- Of all TV workers: 22.4% minorities
- Guests on Sunday TV talk shows: 74% male, 26% female.
- Directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors: 83% men, 17% women.
- Men writing for film: 85% men, 15% women
- Men to women screenwriters, 3:1
- Latino leading TV actor in 2013: 0
- Latino leading movie actor in 2013: 0
- White film directors outnumbered those of color by 2 to 1
- Whites played the lead role in films more than twice as often as did people of color.
- Non-commercial radio stations had up to three times as many minority employees as did commercial ones, accounting for the bulk of diversity in radio news in 2014.
INEQUALITY IN 700 FILMS
Last week the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative produced a report, “Inequality in 700 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Character Gender, Race, & LGBT Status from 2007 to 2014.” This is the most comprehensive longitudinal research report on gender and race/ethnicity across 700 top‐grossing films to date. Here are some key findings:
Of the 700 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2014:
- 30.2% had female speaking characters.
- 11% had gender-balanced casts
- 4% had women directors
- 5.8% had Black directors
Across the 100 top films of 2014:
- 21% had a female lead or co-lead
- 1.2% had a female director
- 11.2% had a female writer
- 18.9% had a female producer
- 17% featured a lead or co-lead from an underrepresented racial and/or ethnic group.
Of those characters coded for race/ethnicity across 100 top films of 2014:
- 73.1% were White
- 4.9% were Hispanic/Latino
- 12.5% were Black
- 5.3% were Asian
- 2.9% were Middle Eastern
Across 4,610 speaking characters in the 100 top films of 2014:
- 19 were Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual.
- 0 were Transgender
The Attenberg report concludes that
“the landscape of popular cinema in 2014 remains skewed and stereotypical. Across 700 films and over 30,000 speaking characters from 2007 to present, movies continue to distort the demographic reality of their audience. Film characters are overwhelmingly White and male, despite both population statistics and viewing patterns.”
THE SOCIETY WE ARE BECOMING
There’s some irony in this white male dominance because by 2050, non-Hispanic whites, now 63% of the population, will decrease to half or less than half of the population, according to Pew Research Foundation. And, currently, 50% of children under five are children of color. Here’s a chart from Pew comparing race and ethnicity in the US population over a 90-year period.
According to Pew, this trend toward more diversity is fueled by the largest immigration wave in history. During the last 40 years, nearly 4 million arrivals—mostly Hispanic and Asian—have immigrated to the US. Both the Asian and the Hispanic population have higher birth rates than the native-born white population and births to white mothers are on the decline.
A further irony is that audiences prefer diversity. The Women in Media study found that films with relatively diverse casts enjoyed the highest median global box office receipts and the highest median return on investment. And, TV viewers aged 18 to 49 gave their highest ratings to network and cable TV shows whose casts roughly mirror the nation’s racial make-up.