Diversity: Now You See it, Now You Don’t

Lack of diversity among Oscar nominees was front page news.

Lack of diversity among Oscar nominees was front page news.

Look around the streets of any major metropolitan area, including San Diego, and you can’t miss the vision of a delightfully diverse population. But turn on the television to watch the Academy Awards or a Republican National Committee’s presidential debate and you’ll be hard pressed to see that representation – a dangerous move that has resulted in backlash for both organizations.

The Academy Awards announced the 2015 nominees earlier this month and fingers immediately began to wag at the lack of diversity in the all-white best actor and best actress categories. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first black president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, at first pushed away suggestions the awards weren’t diverse, but has since changed her stance. In a recent interview, Isaacs said she now looks forward to seeing "a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories."

While we would all welcome seeing a more representative sample of actors awarded for their hard work, the other side of the coin is that this mindset implies actors should or will be nominated based on attributes other than sheer talent. One could argue this year’s non-white actors simply didn’t deliver competitive performances (a debate that can continue indefinitely). There is a danger in approaching diversity with a check-the-box mentality, but I trust that due to bubbling public pressure future Academy Awards will feature not only a talented group, but a diverse one as well.

Presidential debates (similar events with much less pomp and sequined gowns, but with probably an equal number of large egos) also have an image problem when it comes to diversity. This time, it’s not about who is on stage, but who is behind the camera sharing that stage with America. Univision, the largest Spanish-language network, was left out of the Republican National Committee’s 2016 presidential debate broadcast schedule.

With an ever-increasing portion of Americans claiming Hispanic descent, why would Republicans deny broadcasting with a network boasting 96 percent penetration into Hispanic households? As Univision Spokesperson Jose Zamora put it: "There is a very simple political reality – Hispanics will decide the 2016 presidential election."

Lack of diversity is unfortunately not a news story in and of itself. But the interest generated by these two announcements points to a growing awareness in the need for companies to be all-inclusive. How does your organization stack up? Don’t ignore the environment in which you operate, otherwise you too could end up with a hashtag bashing your lack of diversity.