A look at diversity and inclusion in international awards

Photo Credit: Oscars

It has been a long time since the quest to broaden the issue of representation in every walk of life has been raised. With every passing year and decade, there is a new wave of advocacy for the under-represented class. It is, therefore, becoming important for international awards and recognition to start looking into the issue of diversity and inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion are related terms targeted at one major thing: increased participation and representation of the unrepresented or the less represented. In line with this, inclusion simply means removing barriers to the full participation of the minority group. Diversity, on the other hand, refers to the composition of people with varying characteristics including, gender, race, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, and so on.

In the past, virtually every recognition that rewarded talent or brilliance was centered around a class of people, that is, males and people of white origin leaving women and colored people out. This in itself was not outright discrimination because for the most part, relevant fields were populated by this class as women and black people were not yet granted the right of involvement hence, the systems around these platforms were structured to award and reward those who were currently involved.

Moreover, every recipient of some of these awards truly had something to show for it in their works so they deserved the honor accorded. However, as the world kept changing and more people who are under-represented got involved in notable industries and fields, it only became important to equally recognize the strides such people are making.

In relation to this, the last two years witnessed a great change in the history of the Grammy Awards, the world’s foremost music awards and the pride of every musician alive. Neil Portnow, who happened to be chairman of the Recording Academy, stepped down from his position after he faced heavy criticisms for how women and colored people were scarcely represented in the 2018 edition of the awards.

In response to this, the Recording Academy, which presents the Grammy Awards, invited 900 people to join as voting members in a move meant to increase diversity. Virtually all the invitees were women and people of color under 39 years old. An Academy task force was formed by Tina Tchen to increase diversity in the Academy membership because, in truth, the problems of under-representation in the Award are an offshoot of the realities in the world at large. Thus, a diverse Academy is more likely to appreciate diversity and inclusion in the awards.

In addition, the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting analyzed the issue of diversity in terms of representation of gender and countries of origin in Nobel Prizes. It helped to address ways of achieving the number of women and marginalized regions in the scheme of Nobel Prize especially in the field of science. It is a fact that since the inception of the Nobel Prize to honor achievements in Science, Medicine, Peace and Literature, only 51 women and 15 black people have received a Nobel Prize in comparison with 853 men and over 860 white people who are Laureates.

There is also the problem of implicit bias which is the subconscious preferences or existing stereotypes that inform our decision or can cloud our sense of judgment; even when we want to be objective, this bias subconsciously sets in. It mostly manifests itself by valuing, acknowledging and rewarding the achievement of a preferred class over the rest. Implicit bias can work against the advancement and recognition of the works of a less preferred class.

This explains why there is a gender and racial gap in recognition and award ceremonies to such extent when someone of an under-represented class does something noteworthy within an industry, implicit bias may work against the possibility such person will be accorded the recognition deserved for the work, thus, reducing the chances of being nominated for awards.

Summarily, in fighting for diversity and inclusion, there is the danger of resorting to tokenism which is the practice of pretending to give advantage to a minority group only to prevent criticism and make an appearance that people are being treated fairly. In essence, the pursuit of diversity and inclusion must be based on merits and the need to recognize real talents and achievements, not just a show to appease popular sentiments.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 3, 2020


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