The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sent a letter to its members on Friday evening, addressing the recent departure of several black executives from its organization in recent weeks.
Signed by Academy CEO Bill Kramer and President Janet Yang, the statement, obtained by Varietyincludes an affirmation of the organization’s commitment to its diversity and inclusion programs, as well as efforts to “extend” their promotion.
“We’ve 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 called into question,” the letter begins. “A number of black executives in Hollywood have left their roles, including within the Academy, and we recognize the concern this creates. Given 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 promote diversity and inclusion within our organization and the film industry at large.
At least four black Academy leaders have left the organization since July 2022 for various reasons – chief operating officer Christine Simmons; Vice President, Global Relations and Membership Outreach Patrick Harrison (22-year veteran); Executive Vice President of Impact and Inclusion Jeanell English; and, most recently, Shawn Finnie, Executive Vice President of Member Relations, Global Outreach and Awards.
Additionally, the Academy sparked controversy for the April appointment of Meredith Shea as Membership, Impact and Industry Manager, who, in addition to overseeing all Academy members, award submissions and departmental line items, is also responsible for leading diversity efforts. Note, according to a study by zippia76% of diversity directors are white across all professional disciplines.
In the letter, which does not name any of the leaders by name, Kramer and Yang also reiterate the organization’s commitment to leadership diversity, noting that Academy leaders “at or above vice-president level” are 71% women and 42% under-represented. ethnic or racial communities.
Following a previous Variety report on several black executives leaving film studios, the Academy has since updated its website of the leaders listed, having initially included a single black executive Jacqueline Stewart, president and director of the Academy Museum. It now includes executive vice presidents who report to Kramer, including BIPOC team members Yolanda Enamorado (executive vice president, people and culture) and Jenny Galante (executive vice president, revenue and business development). Yet the Academy has no Black or Latino C-suite staff (above the level of Vice President) beyond the Academy Museum, although there are BIPOC department heads. , which are not listed on the website, which also report directly to Kramer.
Asked about the alarming trend of mass exodus of black executives from studios and organizations, and his response to the Academy’s letter, BlackList founder Franklin Leonard says Variety“Anytime you put out diversity numbers for new members without also citing numbers for the organization as a whole, you’re saying a lot.”
Read the full letter to members below.
Dear members of the Academy,
We’ve heard from some of you who have inquired about our Academy DEAI programs as these efforts within our film community and other industries have been questioned. Additionally, a number of black executives in Hollywood have left their positions, including within the Academy, and we recognize the concern this creates.
Given all of this, we wish to reiterate, in the strongest possible terms, the Academy’s commitment to not only continue, but expand our efforts to promote 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 or above the vice president level, 71% identify as women and 42% identify as coming from an underrepresented ethnic or racial community. And in our new class of 2023 members, 40% identify as female, 34% identify as coming from an underrepresented ethnic or racial community, and 52% come from outside the United States.
We 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 initiatives.
Our Inclusion Standards officially go into effect this year.
Aperture, our member referral program, will continue to drive diversification across all membership branches.
Our Accademia Museum continues to program (and now travel) exceptional and diverse exhibitions and screenings that contextualize and challenge the dominant narratives around cinema.
Going forward, we remain committed to continuing our global engagement efforts, expanding our work with our member affinity groups, and exploring other ways to empower our employees.
Our DEAI-focused work is an ongoing journey that requires sustained attention, commitment, and resources across all departments of the Academy. We will look for other ways to accomplish these efforts, and we 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