A Government Report Shows The Stark Reality of Latinx Representation In Media

The report also reveals what jobs Latinx workers in the media industry are likely to have.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) (center), with the cast and creators of the Netflix series "Gentified." In January, Netflix canceled the show after two seasons.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) (center), with the cast and creators of the Netflix series "Gentified." In January, Netflix canceled the show after two seasons.
Shannon Finney/Getty Images for Netflix

In the past 10 years, “little change occurred” in the level of Latinx representation in media, according to a government report released Wednesday, confirming on a wider scale what many industry-level studies have illustrated over the years.

The percentage of Latinx workers in the media industry only rose by a paltry 1% from 2010 to 2019 (from 11% to 12%), the report found, examining U.S. Census and federal employment data. Latinx women were especially underrepresented: They made up only 3% of workers in media, while Latinx men accounted for 7%. The report also broke down what roles Latinx workers served in the industry. Latinx people were more likely to be in service jobs (19%) than in senior and executive management roles (3%).

Conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, the new report is the second installment of a federal study on Latinx underrepresentation in film, television, music, journalism and book publishing. It was first requested in 2020 by lawmakers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, then chaired by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).

Released last fall, the GAO’s initial findings were the first federal report in many years to provide quantitative data on the level of Latinx underrepresentation in the media industry. (The authors use the term Hispanic throughout the reports, explaining that the figures cited by the GAO use the term “Hispanic or Latino” in data collection.)

While people identifying as Hispanic or Latino make up nearly 20% of the total U.S. workforce, they hold only about 12% of media jobs across the country, the 2021 report found. This severely affects the ways Latinx people are represented in news and entertainment, and the ways Latinx stories are told and disseminated.

“Last year’s GAO report on Latino underrepresentation in American media put a national spotlight on the industry’s failure to recruit and retain talented Latinos,” Castro said in a statement Wednesday. “From entry-level to the C-Suite, Latino voices are missing from the main image-defining and narrative-creating institutions in American society. This invisibility means that Americans don’t know who Latinos are or how we have contributed to the success of our nation.”

“This year’s report will be a call-to-action to achieve greater Latino representation in media and enable the Latino narrative to finally be part of the larger American narrative,” he continued.

The new GAO report expanded its analysis using data from the past 10 years instead of five. It also looked at what steps major media companies have publicly taken to improve diversity in their workforces, and what federal agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Communications Commission should be doing better.

The GAO interviewed an array of workers, advocates and experts, such as researchers at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and UCLA who have studied Hollywood representation for years; unions like the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; and professional non-profit organizations like Latinx in Publishing and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

They noted some of the factors that have led to Latinx underrepresentation in media, such as financial and educational barriers, less access to professional networks, and the lack of diversity in decision-making roles, from newsroom executives to talent agents.

For example, a person in publishing said that “the pay structure that sometimes pays out small sums over several years can be a deterrent to Hispanic authors without additional financial means to sustain them,” according to the report. Others interviewed noted the “lack of diversity among decision makers may lead them to dismiss Hispanic content as unmarketable to a broad audience,” the report states.

Among the GAO’s recommendations include more specific demographic data collection and tracking, as well as improved data-sharing among federal agencies, in order to better enforce anti-discrimination laws.

For example, the report found that the FCC does not break down data on whether violations they’ve investigated “affected particular racial or ethnic groups.” In analyzing EEOC data, the report found that from 2020 to 2021, the agency investigated and resolved 24 discrimination cases “based on Hispanic national origin involving media companies.” EEOC officials told the GAO that the number of discrimination cases was likely an undercount.

Castro will present the report’s findings Wednesday at a National Press Club event in Washington, which can be streamed here.

Read the full GAO report here.

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