Oscar Diversity Flap: So Who Are The Voting Members?

Ever wonder how Oscar nominations are determined? Well, there are 17 branches in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) that cater to actors, screenwriters, and other motion picture skill sets. Each branch votes for its own nominees and then the entire 6400 person membership votes from the nominees for its winners.

So, who are the voters/members? Sharon Waxman, with TheWrap.com, says 94% are White, 2% Black, 2% Latino, 74% are men. The median age, she says, is 62. She says that's a lot of old white men. To have more diversity in the Academy that would mean inviting more members from different backgrounds, but membership in this elite organization is by invitation and sponsorship. Waxman says it's likely a 62-year-old man might invite another older man to join. 

All of this year's nominees for Best Actor/Actress are white. That has stirred anger among some like Jada Pinkett-Smith whose husband Will wasn't nominated. The anger, though, is the lack of diversity so, she says, she's boycotting the awards show. Same with Spike Lee and Michael Moore. 

Meanwhile, AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued this statement: 

"I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees.  While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.  In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.

As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like.  We need to do more, and better and more quickly.

This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ‘60s and ‘70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together."

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