Netflix Diversity Study Prompts A $100 Million Equity Fund

By Ariel Go
Marketing Writer

Netflix is committing $100 million to investment in underrepresented groups so that audiences will see diversity on-screen that more accurately reflects the population. (Photo courtesy of Jake Hills on Unplash)

In January, Netflix released its first diversity report covering the makeup of Netflix’s employees. The streaming company also published the results of a study conducted by Dr. Stacey Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative on various representation factors among the on- and off-screen talent of Netflix’s US-commissioned films and series in 2018 and 2019. According to the study, the company has made progress towards inclusion, but there are improvements that still must be made in order to close certain diversity gaps.

A total of 126 films and 180 series released during 2018-2019 were analyzed for the purposes of the 2020 diversity study. This data was compared to the top 100 highest grossing Hollywood films, as well as the U.S. Census information as a means to determine the proportional representation of Netflix’s content to the makeup of the population in those years. Of the 22 inclusion indicators measured by the study, including LGBTQ+ and racial identities, 19 showed improvement over the two-year period.

Netflix has found that its strength in diversity centers around women. Female-led projects in Netflix comprised 52% of its content, which exceeds the 41% of top-grossing films of 2018 and 2019 that featured women in lead or co-lead roles. Behind the camera, 23.1% of Netflix’s portfolio came from female directors which outpaces the directors of Hollywood films where only 7.6% were women. In addition to women, Netflix had strong proportional representation of Black people in the main cast and lead roles.

Despite these major accomplishments, the study reveals some discouraging numbers. Another ethnic group, the Latinx, were underrepresented in comparison to the U.S. population. While making up approximately 12% of the population, only 4% of Latinx characters were leads and 3% were creators at Netflix. Lastly, people with disabilities comprise fewer than 5% of the main cast in series despite encompassing 27% of the U.S. population. To sum it up, the executive summary of the results states that “racial and ethnic representation varies by group” and “LGBTQ+ and characters with disabilities are rare.”

Co-CEO Ted Sarandos agrees that Netflix must do better and proposed “establishing even more opportunities for people from underrepresented communities to have their voices heard…closing capacity and skills gaps with training program where they are needed.” With that, the company has announced the creation of the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity. Through this fund, Netflix is planning on investing about $100 million over the course of the next five years that will allow organizations to train underrepresented communities and help them find jobs in film and TV. In addition to this fund, Netflix also wants to better the transparency of its organization, committing to the release of an update on this study every two years until 2026.


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