Diversity & Inclusion Data in Netflix Productions


Netflix shares D&I data in its productions

Netflix, Computer, Snacking, Cushion

What has entertainment got to do with diversity and inclusion? Actually plenty. As a Diversity & Inclusion training provider, I was thrilled to see Netflix keeping track and providing D&I data in its productions. Diversity promotes inclusion, appeals to a larger audience, and gives people a chance to learn about different cultures. Recently, the streaming giant Netflix commissioned a study to look at its own 2018 and 2019 productions. The study analyzed 126 movies and 180 series released during 2018 and 2019.

Findings are not only striking and breath-taking but inspirational. The study found that fifty-two percent of Netflix films and series in 2018 and 2019 had girls or women in starring roles and 35.7 percent of all Netflix leads during this time came from underrepresented groups, compared with 28 percent in the top 100 grossing theatrical films. 

An example is #BridgertonOnNetflix that not only casts women and under-represented groups but also tackles race and gender in interesting and contrasting ways. In this period drama series, set in Regency England, a color blind society emerges in sharp contrast to a gender biased one.. Following a wedding between their white king and black queen, the society has achieved true racial equality. On the other hand, gender is left alone. So here, “a wayward touch or heaven forbid a kiss would banish any young lady from a society in a trail of ruin” and yet all the delicate issues pertaining to women’s honor are considered men’s affairs and it then becomes men’s duty to solve these issues, sometimes through deadly duels. Sarcastic wit is both entertaining and illuminating.  My review is at link https://bit.ly/2KbVyzr .

Or consider Never Have I Ever, coming of age drama series. Fifteen year old heroine, Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is an insightful teenager. Stereotypes are tackled with sarcasm. When she tells her therapist that she wants to have sex with a hot kid in the class, in order to join the grownup world, her therapist assures her that he may be hot but he still has problems. To that Devi replies, “Hot people don’t have problems. I have seen people in your waiting room — they are mostly uggos”.  Clever use of sarcasm in another netflix serial, Kim’s Convenience also helps break down stereotypes and stars as Korean family, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Jean Yoon, Andrea Bang, and Simu Liu. 

And then there are other films like the movie “Sir”, starring Tilotama Shome & Vivk Gomber. With understated dialogues and masterful use of silences, the movie brings in the forefront crucial issues of class and caste in Indian society. Here is link to my review  https://bit.ly/38NehLe . In Hillbilly Elegy, (link to my review https://bit.ly/3qgHEeR),  light shines on the chief divides in the USA, poverty and its accompanying scourges, social isolation, lack of medical resources, drug use and religious and political divides.  

Movies and serials on Netflix still do have glaring deficiencies in achieving better gender and racial parity. For instance, 96 percent of stories did not have any women onscreen who identify as American Indian/ Native Alaskan, 68.3 percent of the content evaluated did not include a speaking role for a Latina and LGBTQ characters were often marginalized.

Group of children smiling and looking at the camera diversity Group of children smiling and looking at the camera Child Stock Photo

What is interesting however, is that the streaming site is paying close attention to the issues of diversity and inclusion in entertainment and acknowledges the importance of its role in changing things in society.  Netflix’s film chief, Scott Stuber acknowledged its importance and Netflix’s chief executive Ted Sarandos said, “the company is committed to releasing a new report every two years through 2026”. He further said, “our hope is to create a benchmark for ourselves, and more broadly across the industry”.

This is leadership. And I can’t wait to hear Netflix co-founder, chairman and co-Chief Executive Officer, Reed Hastings speak at #TiEcon2021. I hope he will speak to the issue of the importance of diversity and inclusion in entertainment. I hope he will also share how and  in what other ways Netflix is taking this seriously in how it weaves in D&I internally. Register for www.tiecon.org for the virtual tiecon and May 6-8, 2021. With an exemplary lineup of keynotes, speakers and panelists, you will not want to miss the virtual conference. 

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