Hispanic workers are underrepresented in the media industry compared to their representation in the rest of the U.S. workforce. Unfortunately, little progress has been made over the past decade when it comes to this under-representation, according to a new report on workforce diversity by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The report includes an analysis of data collected between 2010 and 2019 by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as data from other government agencies. Media industry subsectors studied include radio and television; cable and other subscription programming; motion picture and video; newspaper and periodical publishing; internet publishing and broadcasting, and sound recording.
The overall percentage of Hispanic employment in all aspects of the media industry over the past decade was 12%, compared with 17% for all industries. Hispanic women were even more under-represented, making up only 30% of Hispanics employed in media occupations. The report finds only an estimated 1% increase in Hispanic representation in media fields from 2010 to 2019, compared to the 3% overall Hispanic employment increase during the same period.
A big part of the problem is lack of representation at top levels of leadership, where there is most opportunity to shape the future of the sector. Only 4% of senior executives and managers in media companies are Hispanic, the report found, based on analysis of 2014-2018 data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The lack of representation is even more stark when it comes to Hispanic women. According to Census Bureau data drawn from 2015-2019, 10% of all media occupations during that time were filled by Hispanic people, and only 3% were Hispanic women. The disparity varied by subfield. For example, while 12% of media photographers were Hispanic, only 2% of those were women.
Of the 11% of actors that were Hispanic, only 4% were Hispanic women. Just 14% of television, video, and film camera operators and editors were Hispanic, of which only 3% were women. However, Hispanic women were more equally represented compared to Hispanic men in writing, editing, and news journalism.
Challenges to representation include:
- Financial hurdles to entry and retention in media fields
- Barriers to media-related education, including cost and awareness
- Access to professional networks and internships
- Difficulty meeting union requirements such as work experience levels
- Lack of diversity among talent agents and other decision-making roles, which can result in the perception of lower demand
While Hispanic people remain under-represented in media careers, they are actually over-represented among consumers of motion pictures. According to a 2021 study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, 25% of movie-goers during 2007-2019 were Hispanic, generating in 1.7 trillion in consumer spending. However, only 4.2% of directors of the 100 top grossing films during that time were Hispanic (61 out of 1,447) and only three were Hispanic women.
A recent Nielson report reinforces this unbalanced situation. It found that, while all audiences are leaning into streaming, the story is more pronounced for Hispanic audiences, as 43.6% of Latinos’ total TV viewing in July 2022 was attributed to streaming platforms. However, the report also found that many Hispanics feel that accurate representation is in decline.
The Annenberg study also found that roles available to Hispanic performers often stereotyped Hispanic people as criminals or foreigners. Not only do Hispanic audiences deserve to see themselves fairly and accurately represented in media, but all audiences benefit from experiencing more realistic and multifaceted perspectives.
The data gap problem
A big problem for federal oversight is the data gap. FCC and EEOC efforts to enforce anti-discrimination and EEO rules have been hampered by problems sharing data among agencies, the unreliability of self-reported data from media companies, and a lack of data on union compliance and union member demographics. The federal report recommends better data sharing between the EEOC and FCC regarding discrimination charges filed, and an improved approach for obtaining demographic data from unions.
What can be done?
Federal agencies are conducting compliance evaluations, random audits, and periodic reviews, sharing best practices, and operating a training institute. The FCC formed a federal advisory committee that advises on issues such as how to facilitate entry of small businesses owned by women and people from historically disadvantaged groups into the media industry. The Department of Labor (DOL) sponsors apprenticeship programs, and the FCC started an incubator program for radio broadcasters.
Meanwhile, major media companies have announced measures including:
- Targeted recruitment efforts
- Partnerships with multicultural advocacy organizations
- Processes to identify and address pay inequity
- Targeted development programs, including incubators and apprenticeships
- Strategic succession planning among leadership
- Incentives for leadership such as making achievement of diversity and inclusion objectives a factor in determining performance bonuses
- Funding initiatives such as allocating funds to support content created by members of underrepresented groups
For the next decade to result in more progress than the last, media companies need to hold themselves accountable for reaching the representation goals they’ve set and publicized.