Majority of TV/Film Roles go to White Women, Actresses of Color Fighting Back

In the latest San Diego State University analysis of TV’s broadcast, cable and streaming programs, 67 percent of all female roles went to white actresses. That exceeds the almost 61 percent they represent among U.S. women, leaving actresses of color with fewer opportunities.

Women also had only 40 percent of the speaking roles while men had 60 percent in 2017-18, despite the genders being evenly split in the population.

Actresses of color are standing together to bring more equality to the entertainment industry, the Associated Press reports.

“Based on the numbers that I know that Black women, Latinas, Asian women, indigenous actors are making, there is no other logical reason why we are paid what we are paid versus what our contemporaries are paid who are lacking melanin,” actress Gabrielle Union told AP News. 

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Entertainment lawyer Nina Shaw, a founding member of Times Up, the organization created in 2018 to fight sexual misconduct and workplace inequality, also spoke to AP News.

“One of the first things we say is, ‘Find out what the people around you are making.’ And more and more, we’re finding that people are willing to talk to each other.”

Union also said that she believes actresses of color are beginning to realize that they are underpaid.

“Little by little we’re communicating, and women of color, specifically black women, are like, ‘Oh, hell nah.’ We are so woefully underpaid, under-appreciated, disrespected,” Union said.

Despite the fact that most TV and film roles go to white people, box-office numbers and TV ratings show the obvious: audiences like projects with diverse casts and want to spend their money watching it, according to an annual Hollywood diversity report from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Asian actors and actresses also find themselves in a similar situation where they are struggling to get key roles.

Nancy Wang Yuen, a Biola University professor and author of “Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism,” said that, “There isn’t a kind of a consistent platform advocating for Asians in Hollywood, and that’s part of the problem.”