Patrick Stewart On Promoting Star Trek: Picard: “Diversity Is Increasingly Important in the World of Showbiz and Entertainment”

patrick stewart diversity

During the Paris Comic-Con Star Trek: Picard panel, Patrick Stewart took the opportunity to talk about and promote the show’s diversity and declared that “diversity is increasingly important in the world of showbiz and entertainment.”

“You see before you five actors. And we are each one of us, from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. Now, I don’t think that was a conscious act when this series was being cast, but it’s absolutely appropriate that it should be so. Because diversity is becoming increasingly important in the world of showbiz and entertainment.”

Stewart then promotes his upcoming film, Charlie’s Angels, as an example of diversity and “female empowerment.”

“In two weeks’ time, there is a new

Stewart for many years has called for more diversity in entertainment. Back in 2015 while speaking to The Stage at the UK Theatre Awards, the actor commented on what he thought would improve British theatre. His answer? Diversity.

“We’ve made great advances in diversity of casting, and that’s something I hope to see growing and growing and growing.”

“Already, in my lifetime, in my career, significant advances have been made, and I look forward to the thrills that await people in theatre, in television and on film from British actors from all racial backgrounds having the same opportunity.”

He then called for more women writers, “You cannot magic these roles out of thin air. We need more writers, which means more women writers too, being encouraged and being produced. If you’re not produced, what’s the point? That’s also what I look for. When I speak of diversity, I’m thinking of gender diversity too.”

Star Trek: Picard will debut on CBS: All Acess in the United States and Amazon Prime globally on January 23rd, 2020.

In AI, Diversity Is A Business Imperative

ai diversity image 2.png

Organizations today recognize the critical importance of diversity. They address it by changing internal practices and establishing chief diversity officers to enable equal opportunities and to strive for greater inclusion so that teams with a wealth of cultures, beliefs, experiences and skills can make their companies even stronger.

The realization that diverse teams achieve better outcomes than homogenous ones was further reinforced by a McKinsey study that found that the most ethnically and racially diverse companies had a better chance of outperforming their peers. Those companies had a 33% great probability of achieving above-average returns. Whether it’s pricing stocks or determining guilt or innocence in a trial, a diverse group is more likely to examine the facts and be objective and accurate.

In actuality, the artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem is no different than the real world – diversity is the springboard to well-functioning algorithms.

Take for example the million-dollar Netflix challenge, in which a team of diverse individuals from different professions around the world developed more accurate algorithms for predicting how consumers rated movies than the ones Netflix had developed internally. They were successful because diverse individuals brought different ideas and ways of thinking.

This diversity is critical in solving complex problems. People (specifically data scientists) create the algorithms that help AI programs learn. If data scientists represent only one group, one way of thinking and one way to categorize, model and process information, then they are not only more likely to have a limited viewpoint, but they also are more likely to create errors. Importantly, they are also more likely to bring unintended biases into the algorithms that train the AI apps.

Coding In Biases

As more organizations rely on algorithms to help with decision making, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are not programming bias into our AI systems. A recent report found pervasive biases in the AI industry, which is predominately comprised of white males. A major concern is that the bias that has crept into so many of our policies and practices in hiring, education and mortgage lending, to name a few, are being programmed into AI apps. To help shed light on biases in AI systems and promote practices to help address this concern, The Algorithmic Justice League was formed by Joy Buolamwini. (read more)

Disney+ Reveals a Studio Once Blind to Diversity, and the More Inclusive Future That Awaits

disney diversity.jpg

Disney made more than a few mistakes in 96 years, but programming like “The Mandalorian” shows Disney+ is ready to get it right.

Streaming service Disney+ launched November 12 with nearly 500 films, 7,500 television episodes, and an undetermined amount of anxiety around a handful of animated titles that contain culturally insensitive characters. From the flock of crows led by Jim in “Dumbo,” to the broken-English performance of the “Siamese Cat Song” in “Lady and the Tramp,” these films can be seen on Disney+ in their unedited, cringe-inducing glory, with the following caveat: “It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

It’s small gesture; it’s debatable if it will be seen (it appears at the end of the logline the viewer sees before clicking on the film), or if it really matters. I rewatched the crow sequence in “Dumbo” and was surprised to see how much airtime it received (10 minutes of a 64-minute film); I also laughed at how ridiculous it was.

But being ridiculous doesn’t necessarily make it harmless, which is why the studio’s editorial note is a smart one — not only as a reflexive gesture of self protection, but also because it shows that the 96-year-old brand has some measure of self awareness.

Over the last century, Disney made mistakes — some, repeatedly. “Song of the South” has been controversial since its 1946 release, although it was once a fixture on the original 1969-1979 run of NBC’s “The Wonderful World of Disney.” However, Disney+ will not offer the film, which portrays African Americans as racist caricatures and seems to glorify the plantation system of the post-Civil War South.

And then there’s the Native American stereotypes in “Peter Pan” (1953); Asian stereotypes in “The Aristocats” (1970); and “Jungle Book” (1967), with its jive-talking King Louie.

By contrast, the premier offering at the service’s launch was “The Mandalorian,” the “Star Wars” serial that features a Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers, Bill Burr, Omid Abtahi, Taika Waititi, Ming-Na Wen, and Werner Herzog. The series also boasts inclusivity behind the camera with episodes directed by Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Chow.

Among the originals being developed for Disney+ are “Diary of a Female President,” a series told through “the narration of a Cuban-American 12-year-old girl’s diary, as she navigates the ups and downs of middle school and her journey to becoming the future president of the United States; Marvel’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” which stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan; “Ms. Marvel,” a series focused on the Muslim Marvel character Kamala Khan; and a “Cassian Andor” series, based on the “Star Wars” character portrayed by Diego Luna.

It’s an extension of what Disney’s already done with films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which feature diverse and inclusive casts, as well as “Black Panther,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” the “Avengers” franchise, and upcoming Marvel “Phase 4” projects like “The Eternals,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Ms Marvel.” Even the Disney princesses have grown increasingly diverse, with the additions of Jasmine (“Aladdin”), Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana (“The Princess and the Frog”), and Moana. And all of them, eventually, will be available on Disney+.

However, one area where the studio still lags is in its representation of the LGBTQ+ community. According to GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index , Disney “has the weakest history when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion” of all the major Hollywood studios tracked for the study.

Company reps promise that change is coming: “You’re gonna see even more new faces, and faces from all different backgrounds, all ages, all ethnicities, LGBTQ, people who are differently abled,” casting director Sarah Halley Finn told Vulture in April.

Additionally, Disney continues to introduce initiatives like its Launchpad: Shorts Incubator, which is designed to create opportunities for individuals with diverse perspectives including women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, military veterans, people with disabilities, various religious groups, and others.

There’s every reason to believe that Disney’s commitment to diversity is legitimate, especially since studies have all but confirmed that it’s good for the bottom line. Its decision to let the studio’s films stand in their original forms also honors that stance, if only to serve as reminders of Hollywood’s history of overt prejudice and marginalization. They need to exist as is, for the same reason that it would be a mistake to re-edit D. W. Griffith’s abhorrent “Birth of a Nation” to make it more palatable for modern audiences. To do so would be to pretend that the original film never existed, and recognition of its social impact — which still exists — would be rendered moot.

Microsoft’s first in-depth diversity report shows progress remains slow

microsoft diversity image

After years of publishing workplace demographic data, the software giant is digging further into its diversity and inclusion efforts.

Microsoft’s first full-fledged diversity and inclusion report tells a well-worn story in the world of tech. When it comes to increasing diversity, progress is slow.

Microsoft has been making public the gender, race and ethnic breakdown of its employees since 2014. With the new 47-page document, it’s going further in explaining its programs, partnerships and strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion.

“We wanted to be able to show our work and progress in both [diversity and inclusion], knowing that we are not where we want to be and we will worker harder to continue to be even better,” said Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, Microsoft’s chief diversity officer.

Microsoft mirrors many fellow tech heavyweights in being largely white and male. Plus, the percentage of women in technical roles is low, and the percentage of underrepresented groups is even lower.

The tech industry has come under increased scrutiny for its lack of diversity from advocates and in the public eye. When companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple started publishing diversity reports around 2014, those reports put data behind what many assumed to be true: The tech industry is mostly white guys.

In the years since, progress has inched forward, sometimes by single percentage points from year to year. Microsoft’s diversity story hasn’t always been smooth. From 2014 to 2016, the percentage of women at the company shrank from 29 percent to just north of 25 percent. CEO Satya Nadella garnered criticism from diversity advocates and media attention in 2014 when he spoke at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and told the conference audience to have faith the system would give women raises along the way. He apologized publicly and in 2018 told CNET women should advocate for themselves.

This year’s numbers

Across Microsoft, the percentage of women globally rose from 26.6% to 27.6% since 2018. The percentage of men fell from 73.4% in 2018 to 72.3%. In the US, the percentage of black employees rose from 4.1% to 4.5%. The percentage of Native American and Alaskan Natives stayed flat at 0.5%. Asians account for 33.1% of employees, up from 31.9% last year. Hispanics gained slightly, coming in at 6.3%, up from 6%. The percentage of employees who identify as multiracial increased to 2.1% from 1.8%. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders also stayed flat at 0.2%. Finally, the percentage of white employees dropped from 55.1% to 53.2%.

There are also technical roles to consider. Tech jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are some of the fastest-growing, highest-paying jobs in the country.

Major tech firms, including Microsoft, have struggled to hit even 30% of women in those jobs. Often, the percentages for underrepresented groups are even lower in this area than in the rest of any given company. Globally, the percentage of women in tech roles rose from 19.9% to 21.4%. In the US, the percentage of black employees increased from 2.8% to 3.3% . For Hispanics, the numbers rose from 4.5% to 4.9% , to give a few examples.

Not included in Microsoft’s report is intersectional data, like the percentage of women of color. Among tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Twitter and Facebook, only Google is offering those demographics. Diversity advocates point out the experiences of women of color differ than those of white women, in that they might experience not only gender- but also race-related discrimination, harassment or the like. They argue it’s a metric worth tracking. (read more)

After Papa John’s racism scandal, the company’s chair speaks on diversity at Wharton event

Papa Johns Chairman.jpg

Leading Diversity@Wharton hosted a panel discussion on diversity and corporate boards that drew over 100 students and community members Monday evening.

Titled “What can corporate boards really do about diversity?” the event featured 1994 Wharton graduate Jeff Smith, chair of Papa John’s International Inc; and Janet Foutty, chair of the board of Deloitte. Both panelists emphasized the importance of having diversity at all levels of a company, including the boardroom, and said this can benefit both society and the company itself.

The event follows recent controversy surrounding Papa John’s after founder John Schnatter used a racial slur on a conference call in May and resigned as the company’s chairman in July. During the event, Smith described the scandal and explained what the company is doing to create a more diverse culture. He said retired basketball player Shaquille O’Neal recently joined the board of Papa John’s, where his “eye-opening insights” and “different views on pricing and marketing” add great value to board meetings.

“We are trying to change a company culture that was far from ideal and make it into the ideal,” Smith said.

“Boards have to be incredibly sensitive and aware of not falling into the tokenism trap,” she said.

Smith said one path for effective change involves shareholders sending letters to boards of companies demanding more diversity. Since board members are directly accountable to shareholders, this often leads to quick action.

“It took too long to start, but it is happening, and it’s not going to stop,” Smith said.

Foutty emphasized the importance of learning more about the governance of a company before joining it, particularly the diversity and role of the board. Smith agreed that looking at a company’s social mission is important.

“How many of you care about the social purpose of the company you are working for?” he asked the crowd. (read more)

How This Entertainment And Sports Attorney Is Bringing Diversity To Both Industries

Jai Thomas

Meet Jaia Thomas, a Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment attorney with over ten years of experience. She represents film producers, television writers, and various industry talent, assisting them with intellectual property and transactional matters. Thomas has negotiated deals with several networks including ABC, NBC, HBO and Bravo and assists professional athletes with brand protection and production company formation.

Thomas is currently an adjunct professor at UCLA, where she teaches about law and the entertainment industry. Prior to being a professor at UCLA, she was an adjunct professor at American University in Washington D.C. where she taught graduate students about the inner workings of production company formation. She has guest lectured at several colleges and universities, including Stanford Law School and Georgetown Law School.

Thomas recently launched Diverse Representation, a platform aimed at increasing the exposure and number of African-American agents, attorneys, managers and publicists working in the sports and entertainment industries, due to noticing a void in both industries. In addition to hosting various education events, Diverse Representation provides the first-ever comprehensive database of African-American agents, attorneys, managers and publicists who work in the sports and entertainment industry throughout the country. In September, Diverse Representation launched a scholarship specifically for future sports agents. This fall, Diverse Representation will be partnering with several HBCU’s to begin building a pipeline for African-American students interested in pursuing careers as sports and entertainment agents, attorneys, managers, and publicists.

I spoke with Thomas about her experiences with being an entertainment and sports attorney, why she created Diverse Representation and where she sees the company in the next five years. (read more)

Silicon Valley has a diversity problem, and the Afrotech conference draws some of the biggest names in tech to help fix it

afrotech.jpg

  • Afrotech, a tech conference held in Oakland, Calif., aims to help black professionals network with some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley.
  • More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the event, which runs Thursday through Sunday.
  • Microsoft, Amazon, Qualcomm and many more big names in tech will be on site for recruiting and discussions.

A bridge across the high tech opportunity gap reopens Thursday as Afrotech 2019 kicks off in Oakland, Calif.

More than 10,000 programmers, engineers, entrepreneurs and more are expected to attend the conference that features onsite interviews from companies like AmazonQualcomm and Bank of America.

“It’s critical that black people are literate in tech and we reduce the digital divide,” said Morgan Debaun, co-founder of Afrotech and co-founder and CEO of Blavity, a web site for black millennials, “People who are waiting for the world to change or tech companies to get more inclusive before they go into these environments, don’t wait. There has never been a moment where more companies are focused on increasing diversity in their workforce. If you want to make an impact at scale, get into tech.”

With panels like “Started from the Bottom, Now You’re Here” named after a popular Drake song and “Black Girls Code,” the conference is focused on making black techies feel included and empowered.

“The first time attendee is going to walk into the space and see themselves immediately reflected in every single person in the room,” Debaun said.

It’s an environment that Debaun said didn’t exist when she began her career in tech at Intuit in San Francisco in 2013.

“I loved being in tech. I loved the idea of creating products at scale, building platforms that millions perhaps billions would interact with,” Debaun said. “One of the things that was frustrating to me is that I felt very alone. I felt lonely going to work every day and then coming home because the community I lived in and the community I worked in did not reflect my interests.”

Five years ago, FacebookGoogleApple and Microsoft released their first diversity reports. This year, Facebook said its workforce is 3.8% black compared to 2% in 2014. Google said 3.3% of its workforce is black compared to 2.4% in 2014. Apple reported 9% of its workforce was black in 2018 compared to 7% in 2014. Microsoft reported 4.1% of its workforce was black in 2018, a slight uptick from 3.7% in 2016.

While the percentages may have only increased slightly, Debaun said the companies have grown significantly, meaning the number of blacks being hired has increased steadily.

“These are real people, these are human beings making a lot of money. Could it be better? Yes. But I’m hopeful,” Debaun said.

Afrotech will also feature networking and recruiting events for high demand candidates. This year, Debaun said Microsoft’s VIP yacht party, American Airlines’ “Innovation Mixer” and Square’s happy hour are examples of companies making diversity a priority.

“I see how much time and energy and staff these companies have [at Afrotech],” Debaun said, “These companies want to change. Our goal is to make it easier for them to change.”

Afrotech 2019 runs from Thursday to Sunday at the Oakland Convention Center.

[WATCH] TWO TECH TITANS REVEAL WHY DIVERSITY WILL KEEP AMERICAN INDUSTRY COMPETITIVE

tech-titans.jpg

Hundreds recently gathered at the annual NPower Gala in New York City to recognize two tech titans who have helped power the transformation of the industry over the past two decades: David Steward, chairman of the Maryland Heights, Missouri-based information technology giant World Wide Technology Inc. (No. 1 on the BE Top 100 list with $11.3 billion in revenues) and John Thompson, the 40-year tech veteran who serves as chairman of Microsoft Corp.

During the fundraiser for the Brooklyn-based nonprofit that provides no-cost training for veterans and youth to launch digital careers, the event also served as the venue for an exclusive fireside chat in which Thompson and Steward discussed, among other topics, how diversity can save the American tech industry.

In the session, moderated by NBC’s Weekend Today co-host Sheinelle Jones, the two told the audience that diverse engineers and computer scientists were needed to address the industry’s talent shortage. Thompson maintains that the future global competitiveness of American companies depends on whether they “open the aperture on diversity,” given that the U.S. produces only 50,000 to 80,000 tech professionals annually versus about 1 million for China.

Since by 2040, minorities will be the majority, Steward adds that for every company, “it is a business imperative” and the ability to attract and keep such talent will prove “pivotal” for innovation and growth at WWT and other such firms over the next 20 years. In fact, WWT has forged a long-term partnership with NPower to facilitate the flow of proficient, idea-rich tech professionals.

The two also focused on the state of women of color within the sector. Thompson, a venture partner for Lightspeed Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley firm that invests in early-stage enterprise technology and consumer products companies, says he’s had more black female founders reach out to him than ever before. However, they face the same nagging problem in trying to grow their enterprises: capital. ProjectDiane, named for 1960s civil rights leader Diane Nash, found that a mere 34 startups led by black women had raised more than $1 million in financing, according to a USA Today article published earlier this year.

(read more)

Diversity and Inclusion is a growth industry. These experts explained why.

diversity panel.jpeg

According to a recent study, diverse companies make 19 percent more revenue than companies that don’t value diversity.

Opportunities in the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) industry are exploding. Over the past few years, more companies have been looking for people to diversify their employee base, according to expert panelists at the Ladies Get Paid event Saturday in Brooklyn.

The “Diversity Is Not a Buzzword” panel featured Mini Timmaraju, NBCUniversal’s executive director of Diversity and Inclusion; Amy Nelson, CEO and founder of the women’s equality organization The Riveter; Daisy Auger-Dominguez, a workplace culture strategist; and Dr. Akilah Cadet, founder of the Oakland diversity organization Change Cadet.

The group discussed Diversity and Inclusion, and how corporations have evolved their priorities over the years.

“These jobs exist,” said Timmaraju, who went from being the only woman of color in political campaign work to being the leader of a diversity task force. “So if you have a passion for this work, I would encourage you to consider it professionally because more and more companies are investing.”

Here are the major takeaways from the panel:

1. Companies are learning that diversity creates better products.

According to a recent study, diverse companies make 19 percent more revenue than companies that don’t value diversity. At Comcast NBCUniversal, executives are investing in diversity more than ever, according to Timmaraju. The motive is practical as well as ethical.

JUNE 20, 201905:16

“We are not looking into diversity as a nice to have, but looking at it as essential to the way we’re building our workforce, our products,” said Timmaraju. “…We say diversity fuels innovation…it makes our products better. If we don’t have a diverse workforce producing the content behind the camera…it’s going to show in the quality of the product, right? And if we don’t have a product that resonates with our customers, we’re going to fail as a business.”

2. Companies need the push and guidance.

Many corporations want to be diverse, but they don’t know how to begin. They seek the help of consultants, such as Auger-Dominguez, to find their starting point.

“I’ve worked with Fortune 500 startups and social impact organizations, and I like to tell them: ‘I’m here to help you reduce the gap between the values that you’re espousing and the experience of your employees and the products that you’re creating, your consumer experience. And in order to make progress, we have to first acknowledge that there’s going to be some discomfort here,’” said Auger-Dominguez. “That this isn’t going to be business as usual.”

Nelson said that she’d experienced first-hand how difficult it is for companies to start diversity initiatives on their own.

“I’ve learned over the past two years is that my first job is to listen. And I haven’t always been good at it … It’s hard to hear sometimes. It’s hard for your business,” Nelson said. “It’s hard to acknowledge what you’re doing wrong, what you need to do better.”

Audience at the Ladies Get Paid event in Brooklyn on Saturday.
Audience at the Ladies Get Paid event in Brooklyn on Saturday.Courtesy of Ladies Get Paid.

3. Employee retention is a concern.

A lack of diversity and inclusion leads to employee turnover, which is devastating for companies. In tech, which is dominated by white and Asian males, women quit at twice the rate of men, while black and Latino employees quit 3.5 times more than whites and Asians. The diversity turnover is directly related to workplace culture, and it costs the industry $16 billion per year.

The Center for Talent Innovation found that employees at large companies who perceive prejudicial bias are about three times more likely to be disengaged at work than other employees. Gallup estimated that disengagement at work costs companies up to $550 billion per year.

Cadet said that she left the corporate world because she was tired of feeling discriminated against because she is black with natural hair. She stressed that diversity isn’t just about numbers, it’s about a sense of belonging, and many companies are missing the mark.

“Belonging means that regardless of who you are, whether you are the mediocre white guy or you’re a black woman with a lot of hair and you wear it naturally, you can show up to work.” (read more)

« Older Entries