The Academy Pulls Back on Member Invites, Pursues Equity and Inclusion

Having met its 2020 goal of doubling the number of women and people of color in its membership, going forward the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is slowing down on growing its ranks. The organization is now pulling back on new member invites as the Board of Governors has deemed its recent annual growth of nearly 10 percent as not sustainable.

Clearly, the Academy is trying to serve its burgeoning ranks by not continuing its recent sped-up growth rate. To that end, in June 2021 this year’s growth in membership will be limited to roughly half that of recent years. Ahead of this change, the Academy’s Board of Governors voted on branch-specific guidelines to be applied in determining this year’s new membership invitees. Oscar winners and nominees will be considered without limitation by applicable branches.

“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,” stated Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “We remain focused on cultivating a membership body that reflects our diverse film community and the world around us.”

In June, 2020 the Academy invited 819 artists and executives from 68 countries, among them Awkwafina, Cynthia Erivo, and Ari Aster. The organization has swelled its ranks since 2015 from 6,446 to 9,362 voting members. The rate of change had been increasing as the Academy sought to meet its diversity goals. In 2015, Academy membership was about 25 percent female, and as of 2020 reached 33 percent, while people from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities grew from 10 percent to 19.

Cynthia Erivo

Leonardo Adrian Garcia/IndieWire

Since 2015 the branches had stepped up active outreach to eligible people to become Academy members, who were voted upon by the Board of Governors. People from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities were 36 percent of the 2020 invites, with women marking 45 percent, as the Academy continued to address its long-term white-male dominance. Seven of the 17 branches invited more women than men, and many new members (49 percent) lived overseas. In a controversial shift, the Academy Board voted to allow 26 agent members-at-large to vote, after decades of resistance to that change.

The past year demanded many adjustments as the Academy responded not only to the pandemic, pushing back the global ABC Oscars telecast from February 28 to a safe but low-rated and controversial Oscars held on April 25, 2021 — but the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement. Having exceeded its 2020 goals, the Academy has shifted to a new diversity initiative for the next five years, Aperture 2025, which will use Oscar eligibility as a wedge to encourage Hollywood producers and executives to follow inclusion standards set by the Academy, or risk not being Oscar eligible.

“We want to be clear that diversity and inclusion are not just a set of goals or initiatives in the Academy now,” stated the Academy in a press release. “t’s a part of the fabric and an organic component of what we set out to achieve in all things we do. Membership selection decisions will continue to be based o professional qualifications, with representation, inclusion and equity remaining a priority. The Academy is committed to advancing its Aperture 2025 initiative, furthering goals to increase equity and inclusion in the stories told through film, elevate different voices within Academy leadership, and provide opportunities to amplify these voices across multiple sectors in the industry.”

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