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Oscar’s diversity controversy: a year on

Posted by
24 Feb 2017
OscarsOn Sunday 26 January 2017, the highly anticipated 89th Oscars will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The glitzy affair will celebrate and reward 2016’s contributions to the film industry.

However, last year the awards stirred up controversy when only ‘white’ or Caucasian actors were nominated within the major acting categories, prompting boycotts and calls for more to be done. But where does the diversity debate stand now?

Following on from 2016’s embarrassment, Cheryl Boones Isaacs, president of The Academy pledged to ensure that ethnic minorities were faithfully represented. She appears to have followed through on her promise. Following the backlash The Academy diversified its voting pool last year, resulting in seven of the twenty nominees in the acting categories coming from an ethnic minority. Four of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture feature a largely ethnic minority cast and production team, including Fences, Lion and Moonlight

Most notably, Hidden Figures a semi-biographical film that focuses on three African American women working as mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s, has shed light on the prejudice felt by minority groups in the workplace. 

Sadly though even in today’s society, under-representation of minorities continues, especially in the workplace. For instance, in late 2015 it was found that there were only four non-caucasian executives of FTSE 100 companies, a significant under-representation.  

2015’s ‘Race at Work’ Report found that one in eight of the working-age population are from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, yet only one in ten are in the workplace. Additionally only one in 16 top management positions are held by an ethnic minority. The same report also found that racial bullying remains prevalent in the workplace with 30 percent of respondents witnessing racial harassment of their peers in 2015.  

So what more can be done to ensure racial inequality is eliminated in the workplace and recruitment process? Employers have already started to implement ‘blind’ job applications, targeted recruitment and mentoring programmes, monthly awards for promoting equality, diversity and fairness and/ or challenging racism at work. Employers can also integrate multiple staged interviews with multiple interviewers to maintain a fair process and reduce racial bias.

However, in the long-term further emphasis should be put on highlighting role models and creating successful leaders in the workplace. Leadership teams should also take more action to ensure racial discrimination is eliminated in the workplace, by recognising it exists and take immediate action.

Despite this, it is encouraging to see that the Oscars and other global organisations are finally recognising talent that truly deserves it and hopefully the awards will continue to be more diverse in the years to come. 

What are your thoughts? Can more be done to ensure racial diversity in the workplace is stopped? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  
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