Gina Mei
Updated June 26, 2015
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Earlier this year, host Neil Patrick Harris opened the 2015 Academy Awards by joking, “Today we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest — sorry, brightest.” The remark was meant as a playful jab, but it rang painfully true: The show featured its least diverse (and most white) roster of nominees since 1998. And it certainly wasn’t because diverse candidates were unworthy of recognition. In particular, many were outraged over the fact that Selma received neither a nomination for Best Director (Ava DuVernay) or Best Actor (David Oyelowo).

The lack of diversity amongst the nominees was incredibly disappointing, but not particularly surprising. The Oscars board is, and always has been, predominantly made up of older, white men. A 2012 study from The Los Angeles Times found that the Academy’s members are about 94% white and 77% male, with a median age of 62. While age, race, and gender certainly aren’t the only things that inform our view of the world and art, they certainly affect it — both consciously and not.

Diverse representation has never been as essential, especially when it comes to the most prestigious awards in film. And thankfully, it seems like the board might finally be getting a little more diversity. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this year’s candidates for the Oscars organization include 27 women and seven minorities (out of 67 candidates total) — making it the most diverse group to ever compete for seats on the board. This is heartening to hear, but it’s important to note that the process to actually getting an invitation to join the Academy is pretty complex.

“Academy membership is limited to film artists working in the production of theatrically-released motion pictures,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website reads. “The Academy has 17 branches, for the crafts ranging from Actors to Writers, and two categories, Members-at-Large and Associates to accommodate individuals who work in motion picture production but do not fit into one of the branches.”

To qualify for membership, a candidate must either receive sponsorship from two members currently in the branch that they wish to join (e.g., a screenwriter would need two screenwriters to vouch for them), or receive an Academy Award nomination (no big deal). The candidates are then reviewed by the branch committees, and the Academy’s Board of Governors decides who to invite based on their recommendations.

Each of the 17 branches are represented by three governors (elected by the branch’s members), and every year, one position per branch opens up for election. As The Hollywood Reporter explains, “Board members are elected for three-year terms, and, if re-elected, can serve up to three, successive three-year terms before they are considered ‘termed-out’ for at least one election cycle.”

Among this year’s candidates is the love of our lives, DuVernay — who is challenging the incumbent Michael Mann in the directors branch for a spot on the Academy’s Board of Governors. Perhaps even more excitingly, for the first time ever, all four candidates for one of the branches — costume designers — are women. It’s an extremely exciting and monumental year for the Academy, and we can’t wait to see who is elected.

This year’s new members will be announced a week after voting ends July 2, but you can check out the full list of candidates over at The Hollywood Reporter right here.

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