oscar award in front of black backdrop with gold confetti falling

A new initiative shows the lasting impact of #OscarsSoWhite

Who says hashtag activism can’t create change? Eight years after April Reign launched the #OscarsSoWhite movement, an initiative, backed by new research shows that there have been more nominations for people of color at Hollywood’s top awards.

The research appears online at a new website, launched by Associate Professor of Communication Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and supported by the Adobe Foundation. The two groups have joined forces to present the information under the banner of The Inclusion List, a new research effort to track and celebrate progress in entertainment. 

The site, announced today, offers users an online experience that focuses on the Academy Awards and allows visitors to see where change has occurred and where it has not. The landmark project covers inclusion from 1929 — the first of 95 Academy Awards ceremonies — to present day, charting nominations for women and people of color across 19 categories. It also allows users to vote for who they think should win at this year’s ceremony on March 12.

The site is the first of its kind to examine inclusion across the full history of the Academy Awards to provide an overall look at nominees and winners across categories. The site makes the data on inclusion accessible to audiences. Information on each category is presented in terms of the overall percentage of nominees and winners who were women and people of color, including an intersectional look at women of color. For example, 17% of all Academy Award nominees from 1929 to 2023 were women, while only 6% were people of color and less than 2% of nominees were women of color. The percentages of winners was similar to the percentages of nominees. Only 16% of all Academy Award winners were women, 6% were people of color, and a mere 2% were women of color.

Despite these overall findings, when the team narrowed its focus to the eight years before and eight years following #OscarsSoWhite, there was a notable difference in the data. Only 8% of nominees were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group between 2008 and 2015. Between 2016 and 2023, however, that figure jumped to 17%. Even for women nominees, the percentage increased from 21% to 27% in the same time frame.

“When April Reign unleashed #OscarsSoWhite, she tapped into the collective desire for change and the outrage that people felt at seeing actors of color excluded once again from this career-defining award,” Smith said. “This comprehensive look at the Oscars demonstrates that exclusion was normative for many years and still is in many categories. But it also shows that there is power in collective action, and that energy has ensured that the years since #OscarsSoWhite do not look like the years that came before.”

Site users can examine exactly where change is still needed by reading through data points on each category. For example, although 12 women have been nominated for Best Original Score in Oscar history, John Williams alone has been nominated four times as often in that category, 48 in total. There has never been a woman of color nominated for Best Visual Effects. In the Best Sound category, only 4% of all nominees historically have been from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.

Each category includes details on the first woman, woman of color, and person of color nominated, as well as the first to win the award. The site also spotlights important facts about communities of color at the Oscars. Additional findings are presented below to provide a snapshot of what appears on the site.

The larger effort of The Inclusion List is to use a data-driven approach to show audiences who is and who is not responsible for inclusion on screen and behind the camera. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and Adobe Foundation will track where and how the entertainment industry has changed when it comes to inclusion. Rather than relying on publicist pitches or subjective evaluations by media outlets, The Inclusion List will examine additional indicators like LGBTQ+ and individuals with disabilities to chart what has changed and what is still needed. The work draws on the deep experience and insights of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and Adobe’s commitment to supporting, elevating and amplifying underrepresented creators, so the world can see, learn and benefit from diverse voices.

Inclusionlist.org went live on March 1, and the interactive poll will close on March 12. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative envisions the ongoing evolution of the site, including providing updated information in years to come.