Netflix Diversity Study Shows Progress Made On Inclusion, But More Work To Be Done

Words by: Sentwali Holder

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Streaming giant Netflix has published a detailed inclusion report from Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative on the diversity makeup of their original content. The study itself was paid for by Netflix and they are now making it public as well as extend the study for the next 6 years.

They’ve also announced an ambitious Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, a $100 million dollar fund to be globally distributed over 5 years. This fund will focus on building talent pipelines for underrepresented communities.


The study details how Netflix’s U.S. original content from 2018 and 2019 performed across 22 inclusion indicators. The detailed findings show that Netflix is making strides comparatively to other studios and the industry of Hollywood by and large. They also show they have a lot of necessary changes to improve on as they inch closer to real inclusion.

“I rarely have anything positive to say, so this report was a bit of a reprieve from my typical rollout of information,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, who is founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at a Netflix symposium for the study on Thursday.

Of the 22 key indicators, 19 showed year-to-year improvement. Netflix is tracking ahead of the industry in hiring women of color directors in both films and series. There is also gender equality in leading roles, another improvement as compared to other major studios. Unfortunately, not all racial and ethnic groups have seen increases in representation, specifically with considerable gaps in content representation for Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern/North African, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities.

The report considers Netflix’s Strong Black Lead “more than a marketing slogan — 21.4% of Netflix films had Blacklead or co-leads while 10.8% of Netflix series featured a Black lead or co-leads.

Here are key findings from the study:

  • 52% of TV and film leads/co-leads were women and girls
  • 31.9% of TV and film leads/co-leads were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups
  • 23.1% of film directors were women
  • 16.9% of film directors were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups
  • 29.8% of show creators were women
  • 12.2% of show creators were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups

Thursday’s Netflix symposium panel also featured Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s Vice President, Global Series; Scott Stuber, Netflix’s Vice President, Global Film and two Netflix directors: as Tigertail’s Alan Yang and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s George C. Wolfe.

After the study’s release and publishing, Ted Sarandos wrote in a blog post: “Taken together, we believe these efforts will help accelerate the change that Dr. Smith has so long advocated for – creating a lasting legacy of inclusion in entertainment.  We are still in the early stages of a major change in storytelling – where great stories can truly come from anywhere, be created by anyone, whatever their background, and be loved everywhere.  And by better understanding how we are doing, we hope to stimulate change not just at Netflix but across our industry more broadly.”