A general view of Oscar Statuettes backstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California.
Photograph by Christopher Polk — Getty Images
By Marin Gazzaniga
July 13, 2015

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced its new Board of Governors on Friday, adding three women to the 51-person board for a total of 17.

The organization that gives out the Oscars has repeatedly come under fire for lack of diversity. According to the LA Times, the group was 94% white and 77% male (77%) in 2012. And the lack of women and minorities recognized with awards last year garnered much criticism, particularly in the directing category, where Ava DuVernay was widely regarded as snubbed for her work on Selma.

The Board of Governors is a subset of the Academy, responsible for overseeing its strategy, financial health, mission and—critically—for deciding which potential new members are permitted to join the larger organization. The board election is private, but a report by Hollywood Reporter revealed in advance that 27 women and seven minorities were vying for the 67 governor’s spots. DuVernay, who joined the Academy in 2013, and Kimberly Peirce (Stop Loss, Boys Don’t Cry) both ran for the open governor’s seat in the directing branch, but the board re-elected incumbent Michael Mann to another 3 year term.

Two of the four first-time governors (the others were incumbents) are women: Documentarian Rory Kennedy and Lois Burwell, representing makeup artists and hairstylists. The third “new” woman is film editor Carol Littleton, who has sat on the board in the past.

The Academy is made up of more than 7,000 people working in the entertainment industry. These members determine the nominees and final winners of the Academy Awards. The organization’s board of governors is selected from this membership.

Each year, the Academy invites hundreds of new members to its roster. At the end of June, the group added a record-breaking 322 new members. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who has spearheaded an effort to make the Academy less homogeneous, said in a statement at the time: “This year, our branches have recognized a more diverse and inclusive list of filmmakers and artists than ever before, and we look forward to adding their creativity, ideas and experience to our organization.”

But others have had a different spin on the numbers. As The Wrap reported, of those 322 new members, only 25% are female; fewer than 20 individuals are African American; 14 are Asian and Pacific Islander and a ‘handful” are Latin Americans. And the new election brings the tally of people of color on the board to a grand total of two: President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and new board member Asian-American cinematographer Daryn Okada.

Trying to change the demographic of a more than 7,000-member organization is by nature a slow process. New members must be sponsored by two current members of their branch and members can only sponsor one person per election. (There are no applications, though Oscar nominees are automatically considered for membership.) The Academy’s Board of Governor’s decides who is invited from the list of proposed members.

The Board of Governors elections happen annually, with only about a third of seats up for grabs each year. Governors are elected for three-year terms, and can serve up to three terms for a total of nine years.

See the full list of the Board of Governors.

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