Following widespread backlash against the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations (for the second year in a row, all of the acting nominees were white), the academy has just announced—following a unanimous vote on Thursday—that it will make a series of changes in its membership and leadership in an effort to increase diversity. (Academy membership has always been a closely guarded secret, but the LA Times found in 2012 that 94 percent of voting members were white, and the median age was 62. Hopefully these policies will help change that.) According to a press release, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has vowed “to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.”
The biggest change seems to be the modification of lifetime membership and voting rights. Whereas traditionally, both membership and voting rights have been for life, now voting status will be determined by career activity. From Oscars.org:
Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade. In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award.
Those standards will also be retroactively applied to current members. Members who do not meet those standards will be designated as “Emeritus” members, who will still get most of the perks of membership, but will not pay dues or have voting rights. (This change will not affect voting for this year.)
On top of a pledge to launch “an ambitious, global campaign” to find and recruit new, more diverse members, the academy will also add three more three-year-termed governor seats, presumably to be populated by people who are not old white men. In other words, on top of adding fresh faces, the academy now seems to be trying to ensure that those members will also have more of a voice with leadership. Current president Cheryl Boone Isaacs (who, it’s worth noting here, is not white), will nominate the new governor seats. Additionally, the academy promises to immediately add new members to its executive and board committees where “key decisions about membership and governance are made.” This—along with all of the other initiatives it accompanies—will, hopefully, allow more young people of color to join the mix and contribute to decisions that, so far, have largely been made by old, white men.