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Hollywood Provides a Real-World Lesson in the Value of I&D

We’ve long espoused our sincere belief that inclusion and diversity (I&D, and we put the I first purposefully) are not simply feel-good, soft goals for organizations to pursue if they have extra time and resources or simply for a PR bump. I&D are real business imperaties and have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line for multiple reasons, including increased productivity, improved recruitment and retention, and a better understanding of diverse markets.

Despite the insistence of our organization and other I&D experts, many businesses have been slow to invest in I&D initiatives, because it may be hard for them to tie those investments into hard returns from an ROI perspective. It’s always great, then, when we can find a real-life example of the link between inclusion and diversity and profitability. And what better industry to put that link in the spotlight than Hollywood?

The movie industry has made considerable efforts in recent years to embrace greater diversity and inclusion, spurred in part by backlash at a lack thereof as typified by the #OscarsSoWhite movement a few years ago. And data suggest that those efforts have paid off nicely.

Inclusion Pays Dividends

“Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramón of the University of California, Los Angeles, have tracked the diversity of film roles for the top 200 films (ranked by box-office revenues and viewers’ ratings) released in cinemas and on streaming platforms since 2011,” according to the Economist. “They found that 2020 was the most diverse year yet. Actors from racial minorities were cast in 40% of leading roles last year, compared with an average of 27% for 2018-19. Women’s representation in leading roles increased towards parity, too.”

The report cited by the Economist also found that films with the most diverse casts tended to be more successful at the box office. “Among the ten most successful films released in cinemas in 2020, eight had casts of which at least 30% were non-white. By a similar measure, the dozen poorest-performing films last year also had the least diverse casts. Although the covid-19 pandemic disrupted theatrical releases last year a similar pattern emerges among movies released through streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+. Six of the top ten rated films released online had casts that were at least 40% non-white.”

From Hollywood to Your Bottom Line

This trend shouldn’t be all that surprising. The United States is becoming increasingly diverse itself. Traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic demographics continue to represent an increasing share of the nation’s purchasing power. Hollywood, and businesses across all industries, need to pay attention to and be inclusive of diverse groups if they want to earn their money.

It’s a bit of a dichotomy but, while more and more people are coming to value inclusive and diversity, we all still tend to like to “see ourselves” in the things we do and the things we buy. We like to see people who look like us in the movies we watch. We like to read about people like us. We like to buy products and services from companies that “get us.”

We think it’s possible to do both—to celebrate our unique differences by ensuring that we’re matching our messaging and our images to the target markets we serve while also celebrating inclusion and valuing diversity.

It can be hard to put hard numbers to the impact of investments in inclusion and diversity. There are so many variables at play with the workings of any business or industry to isolate any one and draw firm conclusions. But the data around Hollywood’s increase in diversity makes it difficult to deny a link between a concerted focus on I&D and the bottom line.

Here’s a worthy resolution for 2022: Be Inclusive!

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Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.


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