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Sony hack reveals lack of diversity among top company earners

December 2, 2014, 11:33 PM UTC
Photo courtesy: Toshifumi Kitamura — AFP/Getty Images

Internal salary data allegedly hacked from Sony Pictures Entertainment appears to reveal that the entertainment giant’s highest-paid executives are overwhelmingly white and male.

A hacker group that calls itself G.O.P., or Guardians of Peace, recently claimed to have broken into SPE’s systems and taken large amounts of data, including copies of unreleased movies and internal corporate files. Fusion writer Kevin Roose noticed a spreadsheet of detailed compensation plans among the leaked files.

Seventeen employees appear to earn $1 million or more per year. Only one – Amy B. Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of SPE’s Motion Picture Group – is a woman. Roose wrote that quick Internet searches suggested that of the 17 million-earning executives, 15 were white, one was African-American, and another South Asian. That would make Sony Picture’s top paid executives 94 percent male and 88 percent white.

These SPE management diversity stats would make high tech and banking look good by comparison. Both have been criticized for underrepresentation of minorities and women in workforces as a whole and in management.

The uniformity in the executive ranks could be one reason Hollywood productions, in particular, have a heavy white male presence. The 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA analyzed the industry hierarchy for movies in 2011 and television in the 2011-2012 season and found the following diversity statistics:

  • 89.5 percent of lead actors in theatrical films were white; 74.4 percent were male
  • 51.2 percent of films had casts with 10 percent or less minority representation
  • 87.8 percent of film directors were white, while 95.9 percent were male
  • 92.4 percent of film writers were white and 85.9 percent were male
  • Cable comedies and dramas had 85.3 percent white leads; 62.8 percent were male
  • 23.2 percent of broadcast comedies and dramas and 37 percent of those on cable had casts with 10 percent or less minority presence
  • 95.8 percent of broadcast comedies and drama show creators were white, while 92.6 percent of cable show creators were
  • 73.5 percent of broadcast comedies and drama show creators were male; 78.5 percent were for cable shows

“It’s such a white male corporate culture, it becomes the creative corporate culture and that affects the stories told,” said Stephen Whitty, chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle and the film critic of Star-Ledger. “You’re setting the tone and the parameters of what people are comfortable with right at the top.”

Whitty is among those who argue that the lack of diversity is bad for business, too.

“Hollywood is still aiming at the sweet spot of 18 to 24 white guys who will watch a movie 3 or 4 times in a row, buy all the merchandise,” he says. “But it’s reaching a saturation point. I guarantee almost every summer there is at least one female-oriented film with women in the lead, more emphasis on relationships, that does very well. I’m hoping that eventually Hollywood realizes that diversity isn’t just a nice thing to aim for but makes good commercial sense.”