Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

@Inclusionists

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is the leading think tank in the world studying diversity and inclusion in entertainment through original research and sponsored projects. Beyond research, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative develops targeted, research-based solutions to tackle inequality. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative works in three major areas:

RESEARCH: Uses data-driven and theory-based research to offer insight and evidence to industries on where diversity is needed and how to achieve it

ADVOCACY: Exists to foster inclusion and give a voice to disenfranchised or marginalized groups

ACTION: Offers simple actions for complex solutions to facilitate social change at the student, industry, and societal level

Explore the Initiative

Contact us

For more information and updates on the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, visit us:

You can also reach out to us at aii[at]usc.edu.

Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Accelerator scholarship

Less than 2% of top-grossing film directors are women of color, yet films by women of color earn the highest critical reviews. The ongoing disparities facing women of color as directors demand action. Thus, Stacy L. Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative are launching the AII Accelerator. This is the first program from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to directly support filmmakers and to bolster the pipeline for young creatives.

The AII Accelerator will award a $25,000 scholarship to a woman of color to use for expenses related to creating a student film during her senior year at a U.S. film school. The goal is to support talented women of color, particularly those that want to tell large narrative stories (comic book, VFX-driven, etc.) and make an impact on the world. The winning director will also meet with a set of industry-leading advisors throughout her senior year.

Sign up below to receive updates on the AII Accelerator and be notified when applications open later this spring.

Project advisors include:

  • Donna Langley, Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group
  • Kevin Feige, President, Marvel Studios
  • Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios
  • Jody Gerson, Chairman and CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group
  • Halle Berry, Academy Award-winning actor, producer and director
  • Melina Matsoukas, DGA Award- and Grammy Award-winning director
  • Kathryn Bigelow, Academy Award-winning director and producer
  • J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath, Co-CEOs, Bad Robot
  • Lindsay Galin, Co-President of Talent, Rogers and Cowan PMK
  • Phillip Sun, Co-Founder, President, and Managing Director, M88
  • Maha Dakhil, Co-Head, Motion Picture Group, Co-Head, International Film Group, Board Member, Creative Artists Agency
  • Brenda Robinson, Co-Founder, Gamechanger Films, Board Chair Film Independent
  • Jay Shetty, #1 NY Times best selling author, Purpose Coach

Inclusion in the Director’s Chair?

The annual report from Stacy L. Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, Inclusion in the Director’s Chair, was released on February 9, 2022.

The study examines the gender and race/ethnicity of directors across 1,500 popular films from 2007 to 2021, revealing an increase in the number and percentage of women and underrepresented directors hired to helm top-performing movies. The report also looks specifically at women of color working as directors.

New Study From Dr. Stacy L. Smith & The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative: Muslims in Popular Movies

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released its first-ever study on Muslim representation, sponsored by the Ford Foundation and Pillars Fund. The report investigated the prevalence and portrayals of Muslim characters across 200 top-grossing films released between 2017 and 2019, across an international sample. The research showed that Muslim characters were erased in popular movies, that portrayals lack intersectional inclusion, and that Muslims still face stereotyping on screen. 

Inequality in 1,300 Popular Films

The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative examined every speaking or named character for gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ status, and disability across the 1,300 top films from 2007 to 2019. The results show where there has been progress in Hollywood and where there is still room for improvement.

Inclusion in the Recording Studio?

Our annual report on inclusion in music examines gender and race/ethnicity of artists and content creators across 800 popular songs on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts from 2012 to 2019. The study also evaluates gender for six years of Grammy nominations for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Producer of the Year, and Best New Artist.

Graphic illustration of a circle graph that reads "mental health is missing from storytelling"

Mental Health in Popular Storytelling

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released its second study on the portrayal of mental health conditions in storytelling, in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and Jay Shetty. The study examined 100 top-grossing films from 2019 and compared the results to the Initiative’s prior study on top movies from 2016 to understand the prevalence and context of mental health conditions in entertainment. Using a purposefully broad definition, the prevalence of mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, suicide, autism spectrum disorders, and other conditions was evaluated. Additionally, the elements surrounding these depictions were investigated to understand whether mental health conditions are dehumanized, stigmatized, and/or trivialized in popular media. 

Critic’s Choice 2

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has released a new report in partnership with TIME’S UP Entertainment, titled “Critic’s Choice 2.” It is the second from Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to investigate inclusion among film reviewers and examines access and opportunity for film critics. The report uses reviews of the 300 top-grossing films from 2015-2017 posted on the site Rotten Tomatoes to assess gender and race/ethnicity of critics, finding that reviewers are overwhelmingly white and male.

The Inclusion Rider: Legal language for ending Hollywood’s epidemic of invisibility

Across the 100 top-grossing films of 2016, 47 did not feature a single Black woman or girl speaking on screen, 66 movies were devoid of Asian female characters, and a full 72 films erased Latinas. Very few females from the LGBT community, native and indigenous females, Middle Eastern females, or female characters with disabilities are seen in our cinematic stories. More generally, the percentage of females on screen in film has not moved in decades. It’s time to change these statistics. The inclusion rider was created to do just that. The inclusion rider is an addendum to an actor/content creator’s contract that stipulates that stories and storytellers should look like the world we actually live in — not a small fraction of the talent pool. It does this while also protecting story sovereignty.

The purpose of the inclusion rider is to counter bias in interviewing/auditioning and hiring/casting in specific employment positions in the entertainment industry. The rider is a template and living document, not something to be cut and pasted into a contract. The details of its implementation are crucial to its success. The rider is a flexible and adaptable framework that actors/content creators should consider together with counsel prior to signing on to their next project. The inclusion rider does not provide for quotas. It simply stipulates consideration of the deep bench of talented professionals from historically underrepresented groups and strongly encourages hiring and casting of qualified individuals from under-represented backgrounds. We believe that this language is a necessary first step to eradicate inequality experienced for years on screen and behind the camera.

In the spirit of inclusion, Dr. Stacy L. Smith of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, Kalpana Kotagal of Cohen Milstein, and Fanshen Cox of Pearl Street Films are sharing the template and hope it will be an important tool in achieving change. Read more about the origin of the “inclusion rider” and use the link below to see the original language.

Stacy Smith: The data behind Hollywood's sexism

In October 2016, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, delivered a powerful TED Talk on the prevalence and portrayal of female characters in film. Most importantly, she shared her data-driven solutions to the problem. Watch now!

Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Solutions

Beyond research, Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative are advancing practical, theory-driven solutions to the persistent lag in equality in media. These solutions offer real-world media professionals, performers, and even consumers the chance to get involved in addressing the problem and being part of sustainable change. Learn more about Dr. Smith's recommendations for individuals and organizations who want to end media inequality.

Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D.

Dr. Stacy L. Smith is the Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California where she is also an Associate Professor. Dr. Smith’s work examines gender, race, LGBT status, disability, and age on screen and gender and race/ethnicity behind the camera in cinematic content as well as barriers and opportunities facing women and people of color in the entertainment industry. She also conducts economic analyses related to diversity and the financial performance of films. Dr. Smith is a world leader, with speaking engagements ranging from the TED Women stage to the United Nations. Her research sets the global standard for data on employment diversity in entertainment, and she is a trusted source to the entertainment industry. Dr. Smith’s work is cited widely by both corporate and educational audiences. Dr. Smith has written more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on content patterns and effects of the media. In 2015, LA Weekly named Dr. Smith the #1 Most Influential Person in Los Angeles. You can read more about Dr. Smith’s work and accomplishments in her full bio.

AII Team

PARTNERS

Research and advocacy at this level involves multiple stakeholders. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is grateful to our existing sponsors and partners, including The David & Lura Lovell Foundation, Mari and Manuel Alba, Bonnie Arnold, Ann Erickson and Richard Pellett, Beth Friedman, Suzanne Lerner, Valley Fund for the Advancement of Women and Girls at the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona and Ann Lovell, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and Barbara Bridges. Support is also provided by The Tides Foundation on the recommendation of Ms. Julie Parker Benello. Interested in supporting the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative? Please contact us for more information or click here to donate.

Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Media Mentions

Photo of Brie Larson, Tessa Thompson, and Stacy Smith

Time's Up Turns a Page: Brie Larson, Tessa Thompson and USC's Stacy Smith on a "Very Simple Formula to Create Change"

Inclusion strategies have sprung up aplenty, but how to really move the needle? 

Study shows ongoing “inclusion crisis” in film industry

The newest study from AII examines inequality in the film industry

APNewsBreak: Study Says Films Exclude Women, Hispanics

Women, Hispanics and people with disabilities are among the most underrepresented groups

Study Finds 80 Percent of Female Directors Made Only One Movie in 10 Years

AII reports that just 8.1 percent of Hollywood’s helmers over the past decade were black or Asian

Lights, Camera, Taking Action

On many fronts, women are fighting for better opportunity in Hollywood