The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes Hollywood's annual Oscar awards ceremony, pledged on Friday to double its membership of women and minorities by 2020.
The Academy said under its new criteria, members who have not worked actively in the film industry in the past few decades would no longer have voting rights for the Oscar awards.
The Academy said it will "take immediate action to increase diversity" by adding three new seats to its board that are open to women and minorities who are not already Academy governors.
It said the rule changes will not affect voting for this year's Oscars, which will be announced on Feb. 28 (March 1 local time).
The Academy faces a protest over the absence of actors or filmmakers of colour in this year's Oscars nominations. Actor Will Smith, filmmaker Michael Moore and a handful of others have said they will shun the awards ceremony.
The list of the 6,000 or so academy members has never been disclosed although a 2012 Los Angeles Times study found that its members were nearly 94 percent white and 77 percent male.
Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is African-American and has come under increasing pressure from actors and filmmakers of colour, said "The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up."
"These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition," she said.
Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade. In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members. In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status. Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting. This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)