New LeadersUp Report Calls on the Entertainment Industry to Diversify Talent on Set

A Case For A More Inclusive Economy

Study shows the creative economy workforce is homogeneous and lacks advancement toward inclusion

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11, 2017 — On the day Hollywood kicks off its awards season with the announcement of the 2018 Golden Globe nominees, a national nonprofit that addresses high unemployment among multicultural young adults is asking the industry to take intentional steps to diversify talent working on set, from the actors on screen to the key grips, writers and post-production professionals behind the scenes.

In its industry review “Creating a More Inclusive Creative Economy,” a pointed critique of the entertainment industry’s “homogeneous” workforce, LeadersUp cites research that shows the percentages of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other ethnic minorities appearing in films have remained constant since 2007. It further points to a study by University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the Annenberg Foundation (July 2017) examining the portrayal of gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities in 900 films that found 70.8 percent of the characters were white; 13.6 percent African American; and 3.1 percent Hispanic. Out of 1,006 directors, 56 or 5.6 percent were African American, and only 3 were women; 30 or 3.0 percent were Asian American and 2 were women. Overall, 41, or 4.1 percent of the 1,006 were women.

The creative sector delivers $620 billion in revenue a year to the U.S. economy, employing 4.7 million people in 2015. A breakdown by race and ethnicity of employees working in off-camera careers isn’t available. But industry insiders convened by LeadersUp have shared that the lack of diversity among set and post-production workers and in the writer’s rooms is stark and widely known.

“Even as America moves toward a majority multicultural demographic, which has already happened in cities where major studios are headquartered and hire staff and cast members, the film industry’s workforce continues to be overwhelmingly white,” the report states. “The arts and entertainment world has long touted its commitment to diversity but has never actually lived up to its own branding.”

The report is the first in a series in which LeadersUp will examine barriers and seek solutions to increase participation by racial and ethnic minorities in the creative economy, which includes arts and entertainment and technology (products and design services). Talks continue around a discussion during the Sundance Film Festival, and LeadersUp will host Creative Economy Summits in 2018 in Los Angeles (June), the San Francisco Bay Area (August) and Chicago (September).

LeadersUp is based in Los Angeles, the entertainment industry’s seat of power with one of the most diverse urban populations in the world. “Yet, people of color are all but missing in behind-the-scenes careers that pay a mean salary of $48,952.52 a year,” the report states. “Film industry employees should reflect the diversity of the communities where productions and studios are located. It’s time to fling doors open to ensure that diverse talent has equal access.”

There are more than 418,200 workers within creative industries in the Los Angeles region. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects “occupations related to arts, entertainment, sports and media to grow by 4.1 percent between 2014 and 2024 with 2.73 million people being employed in the sector by 2024, including the addition of more than 107,500 jobs.”

LeadersUp says there are two factors contributing to low numbers of diverse talent: (1) a lack of awareness among minority communities of the career pathways within this industry, and (2) very little intentionality within the entertainment industry to create on-ramps to employment for minority communities.

LeadersUp, founded in 2013 by the Starbucks Corporation and some of its leading U.S. suppliers, improves workforce equity while serving employers’ needs. It uses its impact model to lower companies’ talent acquisition costs, raise retention, and build a diverse, skilled talent pool. In just over three years, LeadersUp has helped more than 70 companies across Chicago, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area find key workers by connecting them to young adults (ages 16–24) who are ready to fill entry-level to mid-skill positions.

There are 200,000-plus Opportunity Youth (young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and not employed) living in the epicenter of entertainment and creative innovation—Los Angeles. The stark realities facing young people of color in the creative economy led LeadersUp to partner with black-owned James Bland Productions to develop a career pathway internship for Giants, Bland’s scripted digital drama series on YouTube.

“With the new digital platforms available to independent artists, the entertainment industry remains complacent around diversifying talent to its own detriment,” said LeadersUp President and CEO Jeffery Wallace, citing statistics from the report that show in the U.S., films with diverse casts tend to do better both at the box office and have greater ROI compared to those with a cast comprised of fewer minority actors and actresses. In 2014, films with casts that were 41 to 50 percent minority had median box office earnings of $122.2 million compared to $52.6 million for films with 10 percent or fewer minority cast members. In television, there is a positive correlation between racial composition of a show’s cast, creators and directors and the show’s ratings, particularly among minority households, the report states.


Media contact: Email or call Lenee Richards at 213-760-3019 or Shawn Taylor at 312-371-6260.