How Diverse Were the Emmys, Really?


There has been quite a bit of talk about diversity at the Emmys, and we even saw a few genuinely inspiring moments that offered hope on Sunday night. But numerically, did this years’s awards make a dent in a traditionally white male-dominated field?

Several groups crunched numbers the following morning to determine that, as heartening as some developments are, there’s a huge “diversity gap” yet to overcome.

Lee & Low Books created an infographic studying 24 years of the Emmys and encompassing Sunday’s ceremony. Their results showed that Viola Davis’ historic win did change the ratio, but only because the ratio was so abysmal to begin with. Davis was the first woman of color to ever win an award as lead actress in a drama, and only one woman of color has ever won as lead actress in a comedy. The male breakdown is only marginally better, but that’s because of Monk’s Tony Shalhoub, who didn’t play a person of color on the show.

The Women’s Media Center also released an infographic which looked at the gender breakdown of Emmy nominations in the past ten years . The results? Men dominate, not only in wins, but in nominations on the whole, particularly in the directing category:

And though women did indeed win high-profile acting and directing nods last night, the WMC’s morning-after analysis showed that behind the scenes, women still lagged behind — only netting 12% of this year’s directing awards, which is only a smidge better than it’s been historically. The Women’s Media Center findings across all “behind-the-scenes” categories:

Writing: Women represented 22 percent or 5 of the winners for writing from last night’s awards. Men were 78 percent or 18. Directing: Women represented 12 percent or 5 women of last night’s winners in directing. Men were 88 percent — 36 men. Producing: Women represented 34 percent — or 59 — of the producers who won at last night’s awards. Men represented 66 percent or 117. Editing: Women represented 25 percent — or 3 — of the winners in the editing categories. Men were 75 percent or 9.

When it comes to racial diversity, one of the most important points made by Lee and Low’s team was that “diversity” still often only means male vs. female, black or white.

In addition, it’s worth noting that all of the people of color nominated in Acting categories this year were African American, with the exception of Louis C.K. (who is half Mexican). Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Native actors still don’t have enough roles, leading or supporting, to be represented in any meaningful way at the Emmys.”

So, in conclusion: this is progress, but mostly on a minuscule scale compared to the size of the problem.

None of this is cause to despair; rather, it’s a reason to be vigilant. The disparity shown over the years is simply so great that it will take concerted effort, year after year, show by show, hire by hire, to actually change things. The excited reactions of fans to wins by people like Davis, Regina King, Uzo Aduba, Lisa Cholodenko, and Jill Soloway demonstrate that a hunger for change is there, and executives would be wise to satisfy it.