After years of aggressive growth to expand the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of its membership roles, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Wednesday that it will dial back the number of new members it invites this year to roughly half that of previous years.
In the wake of the back-to-back #OscarsSoWhite scandals in 2014 and 2015 — in which no actors of color were nominated for Academy Awards — the Academy pursued the goal of doubling the number of women and underrepresented ethnic and racial communities by 2020. The organization was successful, doubling the number of women from 1,446 in 2015 to 3,179 in 2020, and tripling the number of people of color from 554 in 2015 to 1787 in 2020.
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To get to that point, the Academy also greatly expanded the number of members it invited each year. In June 2015, 322 industry professionals were invited to join, which at that point was a record for the organization. By June 2020, the Academy invited a whopping 819 new members to its ranks to bring the organization to 9,900 people, nearly double from the roughly 5,800 members in 2015.
Maintaining that degree of growth proved to be unsustainable in the long term for the Academy, presaging the need to slow things down. The organization says it remains dedicated to selecting new members based on professional qualifications while also prioritizing questions of representation and inclusion, as part of its “Aperture 2025” initiative. And certainly, the Academy has yet to reach true demographic equity within its membership: As of 2020, women still make up just 33% of all members, and people of color just 19%.
“As we look to the future growth and goals of the Academy, we need to scale appropriately so we can continue to give the personal service our members have come to expect and appreciate,” Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. “We remain focused on cultivating a membership body that reflects our diverse film community and the world around us.”
In advance of this change, the Academy’s board of governors have voted on guidelines for each of its branches in order to determine new invitees. People who’ve won or been nominated for Oscars will be considered without limitations.
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