In 2021, Netflix partnered with Associate Professor of Communication Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to release an inaugural report on inclusion in its scripted film and series content. Netflix also committed to updating that report every two years through 2026 as a means of creating accountability and monitoring change.
In April 2023, the second in the series of reports was released. The newest findings explore gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+ and disability across Netflix scripted films and series in 2020 and 2021. The report also compares the latest results to the initial findings on movies and episodic content from 2018 and 2019. Across all four years, 546 films and series were evaluated.
The results demonstrate that Netflix achieved gender equality in leading roles. Across its original scripted films and series from 2018 to 2021, 55% had a girl or woman as a lead/co-lead. Behind the camera, Netflix movies outpaced top-grossing films in the percentage of women directors. In Netflix series, 38.1% of show creators were women, a significant increase from 26.9% in 2018.
Additionally, there was a significant increase in the percentage of people of color in leading roles in films and series. Nearly half (47.1%) of the films and series in 2020 and 2021 had a lead or co-lead from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. In fact, Netflix films and series increasingly showcased women of color. Slightly less than one-third of movies and more than half of series in 2021 had girls/women of color leads or co-leads. Behind the camera, Netflix significantly increased the percentage of women of color working as series directors, from 5.6% in 2018 to 11.8% in 2021.
While the results demonstrate that Netflix has increased across several metrics, there is still room for improvement. For example, Latinx, Middle Eastern/North African, and Native/Indigenous communities were often still missing on screen and behind the camera. Depictions of LGBTQ+ characters or characters with disabilities occurred infrequently across the films and series evaluated.
“We see notable gains this year, which should serve as an example to the rest of the entertainment industry. Inclusion is possible,” Smith said. “However, it’s essential to take an intersectional look across multiple identities to understand where progress is being made and where gains are desperately needed. We’re looking forward to following up in 2 years to see how this report fostered change.”
“We’re encouraged by this newest round of results and the impact we’re seeing…but we know that driving real change, not only at Netflix but industry-wide, means continuing to think about whose voices are still missing and discovering the next generation of storytellers,” said Bela Bajara, chief content officer at Netflix.
Along with the release of the newest report, Netflix also unveiled news about its efforts to support talent pipelines. According to a Netflix blog post about the work, the company shared that it has “invested $29 million in more than 100 programs, partnering with over 80 organizations in more than 35 countries” through the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity.
Learn more about the full study in the executive summary, full report and Netflix blog post.