The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences sent a letter to members on Friday affirming their commitment to diversity following the departure of several Black executives from the organization.
The letter, obtained from Variety, is credited to Academy CEO Bill Kramer and President Janet Yang. Addressing a recent spike in Black Hollywood executives leaving their positions, the letter affirms the Academy’s “commitment” to expanding diversity and inclusion efforts in the organization.
“We have heard from some of you who have asked us about our Academy DEAI programs as these efforts in our film community and other industries have been questioned. Additionally, a number of Black Hollywood executives have left their roles, including within the Academy, and we recognize the concern this creates,” the letter reads. “Given all of this, we want to reiterate, in the strongest terms possible, the Academy’s commitment to not only continue, but also expand our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within our organization and the film industry at large.We have made great strides in recent years and there’s still a lot of work to do.”
An Academy rep confirmed the letter to IndieWire, though the Academy hasn’t shared it directly with any press.
On Friday, Shawn Finnie, the Academy’s Executive VP of Member Relations and Awards, left the organization after nearly a decade. The move has attracted attention, as Finnie is the fourth black employee in a leadership position to leave the organization since July 2022: others include director of operations Christine Simmons; Vice President of Global Relations and Member Engagement Patrick Harrison; and VP of Impact and Inclusion Jeanell English, whose exit occurred as part of a bigger wave of Black female executives in the entertainment industry leaving their positions, including executives at Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix and Disney.
The letter does not mention the specific leaders who have left the Academy by name. Regarding the current diversity in the organization, it states that “of our current Academy leaders at the Vice President level or above, 71% identify as female and 42% identify as being from a racial or ethnic community underrepresented”. The letter also says that of the new 2023 membership class, 40 percent are women, 34 percent “identify as being from an underrepresented racial or ethnic community,” and 52 percent are from outside the United States; complete diversity metrics were not provided for the entire body of the organization.
Read the Academy’s full letter to its members obtained by Variety below.
Dear members of the Academy,
We have heard from some of you who have inquired about our Academy DEAI programs as these efforts in our film community and other industries have been questioned. Additionally, a number of Black executives in Hollywood have left their roles, including within the Academy, and we recognize the concern this creates.
In light of all of this, we want to reiterate, in the strongest possible terms, the Academy’s commitment to not only continue, but expand our efforts to advance diversity and inclusion within our organization and the film industry in general. We have made great progress in recent years and there is still a lot of work to do.
Of our current Academy leaders at the Vice President level or higher, 71% identify as female and 42% identify as being from an underrepresented racial or ethnic community. And in our new class of 2023 members, 40 percent identify as female, 34 percent identify as being from an underrepresented racial or ethnic community, and 52 percent are from outside the United States.
We have expanded our employee resource groups, evolved our DEAI-focused recruiting and hiring initiatives, and continued to grow our people and culture department.
Our talent development programs that focus on traditionally underrepresented voices in film now span K-12 through mid-career ventures.
Our inclusion standards formally go into effect this awards year.
Aperture, our membership orientation program, will continue to drive diversification across all membership lines.
Our Accademia Museum continues to program (and now travels) exceptional and diverse exhibitions and screenings that contextualize and challenge dominant narratives about cinema.
Moving forward, we remain committed to continuing our global engagement efforts, expanding our work with our member affinity groups, and exploring more ways to empower our employees.
Our DEAI-focused work is an ongoing journey that requires constant attention, effort, and resources across all departments of the Academy. We will seek other ways to accomplish these efforts and are firmly committed to the process.
On behalf of the Academy, thank you very much for your support. We look forward to continuing this important conversation.
Bill Kramer and Janet Yang