Netflix spends $100M to improve diversity in its shows and films

Netflix will spend over $100 million through 2026 to fund organizations that help underrepresented communities find jobs in the entertainment industry.

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Gavin Sidhu, Media & Culture Editor

Netflix’s new diversity fund, in addition to its past films and series, demonstrates the company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity. 

In January, Netflix released its first diversity report in addition to results from a study conducted over 2018 and 2019. The study, conducted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, observed the actors/actresses, producers, writers, and directors behind Netflix’s shows. It examined 126 movies and 180 scripted series from 2018 and 2019.

According to Netflix, they are ahead of the industry in terms of hiring women and those from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. 

Results showed that while the company has clearly made progress towards inclusion, there are still many improvements that can be made. Here are a few key highlights from the 2019 study:

54.5% of series featured females as leads or co-leads. Over 30% of creators, producers, writers, and directors were women. A total of 31.9% of all stories across Netflix films and scripted series featured leads/co-leads from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.

The biggest takeaway from the study is that representation greatly improved over the 2018 study, but it is still below or equal to the representation associated with the U.S. census. For example, according to the summary from USC Annenberg’s study, “racial/ethnic representation varies by group,” and “LGBTQ and characters with disabilities are rare.”

Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos put it best, saying that “the report makes it clear that while Netflix has made advances in representation year-over-year, we still have a long way to go.”

To further these improvements, Netflix announced a $100 million fund that will be invested over the next five years. The fund will work with external organizations that Sarandos said will have “a strong track record of setting underrepresented communities up for success in the TV and film industries.” The money will also be put toward Netflix programs to help the company identify, train, and provide jobs for up-and-coming talent globally.

The fund is the latest of several initiatives Netflix has started that are aimed at improving diversity in the entertainment industry. Last year, the company said it would donate $5 million to organizations supporting Black advocacy groups.

Additionally, last June, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings started donating $120 million to the historically Black colleges Morehouse and Spelman. 

Sarandos says that Netflix believes improving its efforts and continuing to work with USC to track their progress will create “a lasting legacy of inclusion in entertainment.”

Netflix has demonstrated a clear commitment to self-reflection and transparency in regards to diversity. Their new diversity fund marks a significant step in the journey towards total inclusion throughout the job force.