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Byron Allen Rips Comcast Now That Diversity Chief David Cohen Is “Out Of The Way”

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Byron Allen, who has been locked in a legal dispute with Comcast that has reached all the way to the Supreme Court, didn’t mince words in his response to the company’s latest executive shuffle.

David Cohen, who has steered Comcast’s diversity efforts and faced blame from Allen and others who say the company mistreated minority-owned cable networks, announced he will exit his operational role by January 1. In 2020, he will serve as an adviser to CEO Brian Roberts.

“With David Cohen out of the way, this is a pivotal moment in the history and legacy of Comcast and Brian Roberts,” Allen said in a statement. “Mr. Roberts and the Comcast board of directors should immediately rescind their petition in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the civil rights of over 100 million Americans and sit down with staunch critics of Comcast/NBCUniversal.”

Along with himself, Allen recited a roll call of names on that list of critics, including Robert Rodriguez, Sean Diddy Combs, U.S. Senators Kamala Harris, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, the NAACP and Gabrielle Union.

Allen said he hopes further discussions can help “resolve the systemic and horrific racial issues at Comcast/NBCUniversal. With all of us working together, we can truly make this better for millions of Americans and Comcast/NBCUniversal.”

The Supreme Court last month heard arguments in the $20 billion discrimination suit filed by Allen, who contends that the cable and media giant under-funded and generally discriminated against channels run by and serving minority communities. Allen, through his National Association of African American Owned Media, had sought carriage of channels like JusticeCentral.TV, Pets.TV and Recipe.TV. Networks such as Combs’ Revolt and Rodriguez’s El Rey did go live several years ago on Comcast and other systems, but their principals have recently aligned themselves publicly with Allen.

Comcast did not have any immediate response to Allen’s statement. We will update the post if they do.

Comcast’s David Cohen, Diversity Exec And Adviser To Brian Roberts, Stepping Down

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David Cohen, a key adviser to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and a notable fundraiser for Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, has announced his plan to step down from his operational role at the company.

He will end his operational responsibilities as of January 1, 2020, transitioning from Senior EVP to Senior Counselor to Roberts starting December 31, 2020.

In recent years, Cohen has led Comcast’s diversity efforts and also guided its lobbying troops in Washington. He also has been involved in Byron Allen’s discrimination lawsuit against Comcast, which is now before the Supreme Court. (Allen issued a not-terribly-cordial statement about Cohen’s exit, urging Roberts and the company to alter their stance now that Cohen is “out of the way.”)

Cohen’s purview is broad, spanning corporate functions such as communications, public policy, regulatory and government affairs, lobbying, real estate, security. In a memo to employees announcing the move, Roberts announced the new division of responsibilities across various areas of the company. (Read the memo below.) Karen Buchholz will become Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast, reporting to Roberts in this capacity. Buchholz and Craig Robinson, the Chief Diversity Officer for NBCUniversal, will
become co-chairs of the Comcast NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Advisory Council.

Comcast has employed more lobbyists in Washington that virtually any other company in America. Those forces were put to the test in 2014 when the company made an unsuccessful bid to acquire Time Warner Cable, a proposed merger that was abandoned when regulators raised monopoly concerns. Time Warner Cable wound up being acquired by Charter Communications, which vaulted to the No. 2 position among cable operators behind Comcast.

Beyond any individual deal, Cohen has been regularly involved at a high level in major industry conversations around net neutrality, broadcast spectrum and other aspects of the media landscape.

In a statement, Roberts said it is “impossible to overstate David’s value to Comcast NBCUniversal,” adding that his “passion for diversity and inclusion has helped transform our company and our industry.”

Cohen joined Comcast in 2002 after a stint as partner and chairman at the Ballard Spahr law firm. He has also been chief of staff to former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. In political circles, Cohen has been a prominent Biden supporter, throwing the first major fundraiser for the vice president as soon as he announced his 2020 candidacy.

Cohen issued a statement indicating the time had come for a change. (He will turn 65 next year.) “It has been extraordinary to work with Brian and our senior leadership team for the past 18 years to help grow Comcast into one of the largest media and technology companies in the world,” he said. “After a great deal of discussion with Brian and after much thought, I’ve decided to transition my operational roles and make way for the many talented executives who I have had the privilege of working with at Comcast and provide the opportunity to lead and grow their careers.”

Here is the memo from Roberts to employees: (read more)

Lupita Nyong’o Gets Real About Diversity In Hollywood

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“I am benefiting from the efforts of a lot of other Black women who have had it a lot rougher than I have.”

Much has changed in Hollywood in recent years, from #MeToo to a roster of films showcasing diverse narratives, and Lupita Nyong’o is well aware of her place in contemporary cinema.

She joined AwkwafinaLaura DernScarlett JohanssonJennifer Lopez and Renée Zellweger for The Hollywood Reporter’s annual actress roundtable discussion, which was published on Wednesday (November 13). The wide-ranging conversation touched on gender, diversity and imposter syndrome. Listen in:

Nyong’o: This #MeToo time, this Time’s Up time in the industry, is about allowing for equitable representation. And because I am a Black woman, I am a beneficiary of that movement in the work that I’ve been able to do. I’m very grateful to have come into the industry at the time that I have because I am benefiting from the efforts of a lot of other women who have come before me, other Black women who have had it a lot rougher than I have. This is a time where there is a concerted effort to consider diversity and inclusion. What I really want is for it to not be a fad, not be a trend. Right now it’s really dope and cool and on trend to work with women and underrepresented groups, but the moment of maturity in the industry is when it is just the norm, you know?

Lopez: Right. When I first started, one of the things that I wanted to do, because I was Puerto Rican, Latina, was that I wanted to be in romantic comedies because I felt like all the women in romantic comedies always looked the same way, they were always White. And I was like, if I can do it and just show that I’m every girl—because I am the hopeless romantic, I am that—I am the single working woman, I was those things. And I remember thinking, I need to be the lead in a romantic comedy. And that’s one of the things I went for and that’s one of the things me and my agents talked about.

Nyong’o: That’s the thing—when the race of the person in the romantic comedy is not the point. There are moments when the cultural group or the religious group or the national group is the subject matter, and there are moments when it’s not, and both are radical, you know? So like with Jordan in the horror genre, not often do you have Black characters in the fore. So he is revolutionizing that genre—that Black people don’t die first in his films. And [race] is really not the point. What is the point is that it’s an examination of class and privilege. The family that we are following is representational of the all-American family. And that you can relate to that person just as much as I related to Fräulein Maria in “The Sound of Music.” That it is possible that we can see ourselves in the people who are different from us, from other cultures, other creeds.

To hear more from Nyong’o on diversity and inclusion, watch the video below, courtesy of THR:


 

#TEC19: HOW DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION POWER TECH INNOVATION

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ASAE’s 2019 Technology Exploration Conference kicked off on Tuesday with a conversation focused on the value of diversity, inclusion, and human interactions in fueling future tech innovations.

Artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, and the internet of things—these are the technology trends shaping our digital future. But without a diverse talent pool and meaningful human interactions, organizations of all types, including associations, will fall behind amid so much dynamic change.

That was the message from Consumer Technology Association (CTA) President and CEO Gary Shapiro in a keynote session opening the 2019 ASAE Technology Exploration Conference in Washington, DC, Tuesday morning. “Real innovation is the process by which we solve fundamental problems that we as humans will face,” Shapiro said. “I believe our future battles will be about technology, but the winners will come from a group of diverse and innovative thinkers committed to improving the human condition.”

That theme was echoed by keynote moderator Sherrell Dorsey, founder and CEO of ThePLUG, a digital publication that covers tech founders, innovators, and investors of color.

“When I think of diversity, I think of all my tech mentors who came from different races and backgrounds,” Dorsey said. “It has painted my worldview of what technology is, and it taught me how to look at a challenge and solve it.”

BUILD BRIDGES, NOT WALLS

On a global scale, Shapiro said, many of today’s leaders are focused on building walls—both literal and symbolic—when instead they should be building bridges to enable collaboration.

“We’re seeing isolationism emerge, and it’s a world which is cleaving right now,” he said. “I think associations can be a force to build community and construct real human progress and innovation.”

But doing that requires a diverse group of people who can be “designers of their own digital experience,” Dorsey said. She suggested that one way associations can do this is to host hackathon-style events, which bring together many different people for hours or days of problem solving around a specific technology issue.

“I think that can also help associations rethink whether certain technologies or practices are inclusionary or exclusionary,” Dorsey added. “Take data collection, as an example. Often you have to ask yourself: “Who or what’s missing?” Because certain groups may go hidden in an association.”

CREATE DIVERSE TEAMS

Increasing diversity—asking “Who’s missing?”—also matters in workforce development and hiring practices, especially in critical technology positions. “We need diverse teams if we want to adopt a culture of innovation,” Shapiro said. “That means hiring and developing a team that thinks differently from you.”

He noted that many technology companies have lagged in recruiting and promoting women and people of color, which is why CTA sets aside funding to help its members hire workers from underrepresented groups. And earlier this year, CTA announced new D+I initiatives for its annual Consumer Electronics Show, including an “Innovation for All” presentation track and a grant-funded program for women and other underrepresented entrepreneurs who can exhibit for free in a designated startup space.

“You have to reach out to different people and move away from your comfort zone,” Shapiro said. “I think diversity and inclusion is a continuous process where you always need to be working toward steady improvements.”

Democrats call out lack of diversity in 2020 race after Harris’ exit

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Leading Democrats including presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro spoke out against an increasing lack of diversity in the 2020 race following the exit of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) Tuesday.

Cory Booker

@CoryBooker

We started with one of the most diverse fields in our history. It’s a damn shame that the only African American woman in this race is no longer in it, and we’re spiraling toward a debate stage without a single person of color.

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Why it matters: The six candidates who’ve qualified for the upcoming debate are all white: former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and billionaire Tom Steyer.

  • Booker noted on MSNBC that the Democratic race is “spiraling towards” a December debate that “could have six people with no diversity whatsoever.”

The big picture: Harris had qualified for the next debate, but she bowed out after struggling in recent polls. The other candidates of color have yet to meet Democratic National Committee debate requirements. Candidates have until Dec. 12 to qualify.

  • Fox News notes businessman Andrew Yang and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) met the donor threshold qualification “but have yet to meet the polling requirement.”
  • Neither Booker nor Castro have qualified met the requirements so far.

What they’re saying: Several liberal activists and progressive groups have spoken out on the lack of diversity in the Democrats’ race now.

  • Democratic strategist Michael Starr Hopkins told Fox News the DNC “thought it would help progressives” with its new requirements, “but it ended up hurting campaigns like Harris, Booker, and Castro. “Instead of focusing on building infrastructure, they had to spend insane amounts on donor lists to get on the debate stage,” he said.
  • Castro told BuzzFeed the media had held Harris to a double standard because candidates of color are treated differently. He also addressed the DNC debate’s diversity issue in a video posted to Twitter.

Sawyer Hackett

@SawyerHackett

With @KamalaHarris out, the debate stage is now all white. @JulianCastro responds:

“What we’re staring at is a DNC debate stage with no people of color on it. That does not reflect the diversity of our party or our country. We need to do better than that.”

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Diversity-focused VC fund Harlem Capital debuts with $40M

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Harlem Capital has upgraded from angel syndicate to full-fledged venture capital fund, closing its debut effort on an oversubscribed $40.3 million.

The firm was launched by managing partners Henri Pierre-Jacques and Jarrid Tingle in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood in 2015. The pair have since graduated from Harvard Business School  and hired two venture partners, Brandon Bryant and John Henry, and two senior associates to help expand their portfolio. The over-arching goal: invest in 1,000 diverse founders over the next 20 years.

“We fundamentally believe we are a venture fund with impact, not an impact fund,” Pierre-Jacques tells TechCrunch. “The way we generate impact is to give women and minority entrepreneurs ownership.”

Capital from Harlem Capital Partners Venture Fund I, an industry-agnostic vehicle that invests in post-revenue businesses across the U.S., will be used to lead, co-lead or participate in $250,000 to $1 million-sized seed or Series A financings. To date, the team has backed 14 companies, including B2B feminine hygiene product Aunt Flow, gig economy marketplace Jobble and pet wellness platform Wagmo. Harlem Capital plans to add another 22 businesses to Fund 1.

You need diversity funds like ourselves to get this market anywhere close to parity.Harlem Capital managing partner Jarrid Tingle

With its first fund close, Harlem Capital becomes one of the largest venture capital funds with a diversity mandate. Despite an increasing amount of punishing data exposing the gender and race gap in venture capital, minority founders continue to rake in just a small percentage of funding each year. According to a RateMyInvestor and Diversity VC report released earlier this year, most VC dollars are invested in companies run by white men with a university degree. Other recent data indicates startups founded exclusively by women raised just 2.2% of overall VC funding in 2018, with numbers on pace to increase only slightly in 2019. Meanwhile, the median amount of funding raised by black female founders, as of 2018, was $0.

The stark contrast in funding for female versus male entrepreneurs or white women versus black women founders is in part a result of a lack of diversity amongst general partners at venture capital funds and amongst the limited partners that choose which venture capital funds to provide capital. While there’s little data available on diversity of LPs, 81% of VC firms didn’t have a single black investor as of 2018.

“There’s no rational reason why this problem exists,” Tingle tells TechCrunch. “It persists because VC funds in general have been closely held and clustered around Silicon Valley. They come from particular schools with particular networks with a small head count that doesn’t turn over frequently. Some firms have strategically added a few partners here and there, but not enough to change the organization. You need diversity funds like ourselves to get this market anywhere close to parity.”

“A lot of investors are frankly missing out on opportunities,” Tingle adds.

Having met through the Management Leadership for Tomorrow Program, a nonprofit organization identifying a new generation of leadership, Tingle and Pierre-Jacques have built a prolific internship program at the firm. With as many as six interns admitted each quarter, the goal is to train future investors of color.

Limited partners in Harlem Capital Partners Fund I include TPG Global, State of Michigan Retirement Systems, the Consumer Technology Association and Dorm Room Fund .

Finding And Hiring Diversity Executives For Your Company

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In the 1980s, diversity became a popular theme in movies and TV storylines, and perhaps this is why there is a resurgence of ’80s popular culture in shows like Stranger ThingsGlow and Pose. As new generations of talent begin to rise through management levels, diversity and inclusion has become a pivotal business best practice and tool for attracting and retaining talent. Candidates are often weighing more than just a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, benefits and reputation when making a career move.

As awareness surrounding diversity and inclusion grows, organizations will need to transform leadership teams and cultures to reflect changing social values. Companies that can’t keep up with this shift, or choose to ignore it, could be left behind. Emerging generations are taking inclusion to new levels, and a company can quickly suffer these consequences within a viral, social and hashtag-dominated society.

To accommodate this shift, companies are hiring and onboarding new leadership dedicated to cultivating diversity and inclusion. Traditionally, diversity and inclusion fell under human resources (HR). It still very much aligns with this department, but now has become its own special area of focus. The challenge many companies are facing is how to access this elite and hidden talent.

Finding And Hiring Diversity Talent

Internal talent acquisition teams are a great starting point for building a talent strategy, but when it comes to executive-level appointments, sometimes they are unprepared. Even your own experts need help finding talent that may be outside their reach, and this is where executive search can help. Executive search firms can offer objectivity for hiring strategies and access broader candidate pools.

Through years of specialization and expertise, executive search firms can strategically look beyond your direct competitors to identify rising leaders in other markets and bring these insights to your search. It’s important to look at several things when partnering with an executive search firm, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Prior to engaging with a search firm, consider the following: (read more)

AMC Responds to Racial Profiling Incident by Firing Employees, Donating 20,000 Free Tickets to ‘Harriet’ Film

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AMC Theatres is doing damage control after a group of Black women allege they were racially profiled by staffers during a recent showing of “Harriet” in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana, earlier this month.

Three employees have been fired as a result of the incident, and the theater chain is continuing to make amends.

Members of the 504 Queens, an African-American women’s empowerment group and nonprofit, claim they were humiliated during a Nov. 3 trip to see the critically acclaimed film. Their outing was ruined when two employees and a kitchen staffer confronted the women about an apparent mix-up with their tickets.

Sandra Gordon, a member of the 504 Queens, said she thought the issue had been resolved. But she would be interrupted twice more by employees who accused her of being rude to a worker who came to check her ticket earlier. (read more)

In ‘Thanksgiving Play,’ Native American Playwright Larissa FastHorse Tackles ‘Wokeness’

Larissa FastHorse

Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse’s hit satirical comedy “Thanksgiving Play” takes on wokeness and displays how humor can fuel change by sparking productive dialogue around race and equity.

“Thanksgiving Play” is about four white adults struggling to devise a politically correct elementary school production of the first Thanksgiving for Native American Heritage Month.

The director of the fictional play hires an actor she believes is a Native American to be their cultural compass. The cast defers to this actor for her guidance but it’s later revealed she’s a white actress who plays Native American characters.

The play challenges the myths surrounding Thanksgiving, FastHorse says, and how celebrating the holiday erases and flattens indigenous experiences.

“To acknowledge indigenous culture and history in this nation, we have to acknowledge complicity,” FastHorse says, “and that if you’re here, you’re on stolen land, however you got here.”

The play is running at the Geffen Playhouse Theater in Los Angeles, and it ran last fall in New York. “Thanksgiving Play” is traveling to other parts of the country and American Theater Magazine ranked the play as one of the 10 most produced plays in the 2019-2020 season.

FastHorse says she’s happy so many people are seeing the show, but she also considers it her most depressing success.

Almost all of her previous plays required casting at least one indigenous actor to play a role she believes must be played by an indigenous person, she says.

“I was told my plays were uncastable over and over again,” she says, “even with one half Native American character — that it just wasn’t possible.”

But FastHorse says that reason doesn’t hold up. She believes people haven’t tried to produce plays with Native American actors, so she created this play with an all-white cast to put a spotlight on contemporary indigenous issues.

Through humor, “Thanksgiving Play” takes on the mythology of pilgrims and Indians finding peace over a meal — and also what FastHorse calls “performative wokeness.”

The liberal-leaning theater community has helped her succeed in her career as a playwright, she says, but it also tends to favor fostering the appearance of change over embodying real change.

“Lots of really well-meaning white people are in charge of American theater,” she says. “Over-striving to do the right thing and not screw up and not make mistake creates this weird paralysis where real change doesn’t actually happen.”

Preformative change is a problem facing American theater and the liberal left in general, she says.

“Real change is messy and difficult, and has all kinds of mistakes and all kinds of problems and hurts feelings,” she says. “And then we find our way through it.”

From the Sicangu Lakota Nation, FastHorse says her message is for the white people who often make up the majority of a theater audience, but she also included a few jokes for people of color and indigenous people specifically.

The second half of “Thanksgiving Play” happens when the performance ends and the audience is left to consider why they accept the traditional myth of Thanksgiving — a story FastHorse did not learn herself.

Growing up in rural South Dakota, Thanksgiving was about family, gratitude and celebrating the harvest. She didn’t hear the pilgrims and Indians narrative until she was doing research for this play.

As a half Native and half white playwright, FastHorse says her “superpower” is translating experiences and culture of indigenous people to white audiences.

“If everybody loved my work, I’d be really bummed out because I wouldn’t feel like I’m doing my job right,” she says. “I’m there to get in your head and make you think differently.”

Starbucks hires Nzinga Shaw as global Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer

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American coffee company and coffeehouse chain, Starbucks has hired Nzinga Shaw as global chief inclusion and diversity officer.

After five years, Shaw exits the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena where she has been chief diversity and inclusion officer.

“I am overly grateful to the Hawks ownership, CEO Steve Koonin and NBA organization for giving me an opportunity to create internal and external programs with diversity at the core,” Shaw wrote on LinkedIn.

Shaw is an alumna of Spelman College, the University of Pennsylvania, and was a study abroad scholar at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

Prior to becoming the first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks & State Farm Arena she was a Senior Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion Officer at the world’s largest and most profitable public relations agency, Edelman.

Pic Credit: earthequityadvisors.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She has also worked in human resources at Essence Magazine, the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, and the National Football League.

Meanwhile, Shaw is also on the Board of Directors of the National Black Public Relations Society and the Georgia Diversity Council and was named among the 2017 Atlanta Business Chronicle 40 Under 40 Awards honoree

Reacting to her new role, Shaw said she is “thrilled to join such an iconic brand as Starbucks to leverage the power of Inclusion “one cup, one person, one community at a time!”

Shaw, an experienced executive with extensive hands-on experience and knowledge of diversity & inclusion, change, talent acquisition, organizational planning, employee relations, branding, and community engagement said her daughter is her inspiration.

“She is the light of my life, she makes me think about all of the possibilities for the future. She gives me hope that the world can be a better place than it was when I was growing up. She’s in a very multi-cultural school that is not segregated and I see so much hope for equity and for equality looking through the lens of her eyes. So, she inspires me to continue to do this work because I know that I can hopefully shape and change a generation,” Shaw said.

 

 

 

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