Netflix pledges $100 million to improve the diversity in its shows

It has made some progress in the last two years, but needs to step up on some fronts.

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After releasing its first diversity report in January, Netflix has also published the results of a study of its US-commissioned films and series over 2018 and 2019. While the earlier report covered the makeup of Netflix's employees, today's findings look at its on-screen talent, as well as the producers, writers and directors behind its shows. The study was conducted by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at Netflix's request, and indicate that while the company's shows had made progress towards inclusion, there are still improvements to be made. According to the executive summary, "racial/ethnic representation varies by group," and "LGBTQ and characters with disabilities are rare." 

To help make those improvements, Netflix announced a Fund for Creative Equity today that will see it invest $100 million over five years. It will work with external organizations that co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement have "a strong track record of setting underrepresented communities up for success in the TV and film industries." The fund will also go towards setting up "bespoke Netflix programs that will help us to identify, train and provide job placement for up-and-coming talent globally."

It's no coincidence that Netflix decided to publish reports on its diversity both within its "employee population" and on the set of its productions this year. Last September, when the company released the first teaser for its teen drama series Grand Army, writer Ming Peiffer tweeted that she and three other writers of color had quit the show over "racist exploitation and abuse." She said that the showrunner and creator had called Netflix HR on "the Black writer in the room for getting a haircut." In a subsequent tweet, Peiffer said "Netflix was fully aware of it all and did nothing except hire more writers of color to lend their names to the show."

Publicly, Netflix hasn't appeared to have directly addressed these allegations, and Engadget has reached out for comment. Commissioning a study of the diversity and representation of people who work for the company might be a first step, but it's not the same as actual acknowledgement of errors that might have been made.

In general, the results show that Netflix has indeed made some improvements over the last two years, though the c. It's also worth noting that since content from 2020 wasn't included in the study, there could be areas of growth (or continually underrepresented communities) that weren't covered. One thing that USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative's executive summary did state is that "relative to its industry peers, this result signifies that for Netflix, inclusion is more than a marketing slogan, and serves to guide decision-making."

The report noted that Netflix did make progress towards inclusion "for women on screen and behind the scenes, for Black casts and creatives and for women of color in leading and main cast roles." But it also highlighted "where accelerated change is necessary, particularly for specific racial/ethnic groups, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities." The study measured 22 inclusion indicators, and out of all of them, it found that "Netflix films and series improved slightly to significantly from 2018 to 2019 across 19 metrics." The executive summary provides a comprehensive set of data (and colorful graphs and charts) that go into further detail, so take a look here to learn more. 

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