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Film Academy Sets Inclusion Requirements for Oscars, Will Take Full Effect in 2024

The announcement comes just shy of the fifth anniversary of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

“To encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience,” films will have to meet minimum requirements pertaining to representation and inclusion to be eligible for the best picture Oscar beginning with the 96th Oscar race (which will recognize achievements from 2024 and be held in 2025), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday.

In the meantime, an Academy Inclusion Standards form will have to be submitted to the Academy for a film to be considered for the 94th Oscars (recognizing films from 2021 released after Feb. 28) and 95th Oscars (recognizing films from 2021), although meeting inclusion thresholds will not yet be a requirement. And no action will be required for films wishing to compete for the 93rd Oscars, which are to be held on April 25.

The new requirements — which were announced just shy of the five-year anniversary of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and three months after the Academy announced its Academy Aperture 25 initiative — were determined by a task force headed by Academy governors DeVon Franklin and Jim Gianopulos and were modeled after a template inspired by the British Film Institute (BFI) Diversity Standards, which are used to determine certain funding eligibility in the UK and eligibility in some categories of the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) Awards.

The Academy also consulted with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), as it presently does for Oscars eligibility.

“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement. “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

Starting with the 96th Oscars, a film will have to meet at least two of four of the following standards to be eligible for best picture.

STANDARD A:  ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES

To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:

A1. Lead or significant supporting actors At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.

  • Asian
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • Black/African American
  • Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
  • Middle Eastern/North African
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

A2. General ensemble cast At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM

To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:

B1. Creative leadership and department heads At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads — Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer — are from the following underrepresented groups:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial or ethnic group:

  • Asian
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • Black/African American
  • Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
  • Middle Eastern/North African
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

B2. Other key roles At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc.

B3. Overall crew composition At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD C:  INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES

To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:

C1. Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities

The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial or ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

C2. Training opportunities and skills development (crew) The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:

  • Women
  • Racial or ethnic group
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT

To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:

D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.

  • Women
  • Asian
  • Hispanic/Latinx
  • Black/African American
  • Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
  • Middle Eastern/North African
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Other underrepresented race or ethnicity
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

All categories other than Best Picture will be held to their current eligibility requirements.

Films in specialty categories submitted for Best Picture/General Entry consideration (e.g. Animated Feature, Documentary Feature and International Feature Film) will be addressed separately.

Space Force aims to set standard for diversity, inclusion in the military

When 1st Lt. Kelley McCaa found out she would be part of the American military’s first all-female space operations crew, alongside a team of women she considers close friends, she knew it would make a bold statement for the newly-formed U.S. Space Force.

McCaa’s squadron, based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, operates one of the approximately 30 GPS satellites used by more than 5 billion people around the world.

“Growing up, you don’t see too many women in STEM or women in recruiter videos for the military or science or physics,” McCaa said. “So, for me, I’m hoping that women will see that they have more opportunities than they might’ve realized growing up.”

That all-female team isn’t the only sign that the Space Force is trying to build diversity into its mission from the start.

Gen. David H. Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, speaks to attendees during a change of command ceremony at Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans, Sept. 4, 2019. (Pfc. Leslie Alcaraz/Marine Corps)
Top military leaders speak out about racism in wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody

America’s military leaders speak out after the death of George Floyd.Zach England, Kyle Rempfer, Geoff Ziezulewicz, Diana Stancy Correll

Nina Armagno was recently promoted as its first female three-star general. As the director of staff for the office of the Chief of Space Operations, she will oversee the day-to-day happenings at Space Force headquarters. And in June, the head of the branch, Gen. John Raymond, addressed the topic in a letter he wrote in response to national uproar over the death of George Floyd. He called racism one of the enemies that service members swore an oath to defend the country against and added the Space Force must be founded on dignity and respect.

“We have an opportunity to get this right from the beginning and we are committed to doing so,” Raymond wrote. “We must build diversity and inclusion into our ‘cultural DNA’ — make it one of the bedrock strengths of our service.”

Some critics worry these public steps only serve to obscure larger systemic problems the Space Force has inherited from the branch of the military it grew out of, the U.S. Air Force.

A troubled legacy

President Donald Trump signed the Space Force into law in December 2019, creating the first new military branch since 1947. Though an independent branch, Space Force still resides within the Department of the Air Force in the same way the Marine Corps rests within the Department of the Navy. Currently, the vast majority of Space Force personnel are Air Force transfers.

A series of reports from Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit focused on reducing gender and racial discrimination in the military, concluded that the Air Force has the worst problem with racial bias among the military branches. As our partners with the American Homefront Project previously reported, the group found Black airmen were about 70 percent more likely to be court-martialed or face other punishments than their white counterparts.

The Air Force’s own data indicates the problem has been getting worse, not better. Protect our Defenders obtained that data after years of the Air Force blocking its release.

The group Protect Our Defenders released a report May 27 that found the Air Force still experiences wide racial disparities in its military justice system. Pictured, the 167th Theater Sustainment Command Judge Advocate General section conducts a mock trial in August 2018 at the Calhoun County Courthouse, Anniston, Alabama. (Staff Sgt. Katherine Dowd/Army National Guard)
Air Force punished black airmen more, report says — and covered it up

“It appears the Air Force has done nothing in the last four years to solve the problem,” the head of Protect Our Defenders said.Stephen Losey

The nonprofit’s president, former Air Force chief prosecutor and retired Col. Don Christensen, said he thought it’s too early to spot whether the Space Force repeats this disciplinary trend. Until that data exists, he said announcements like the all-female space operations squadron and the promotion of Gen. Armagno are positive signs for the branch.

He also believes its distinction as the first ‘all-digital’ service may help. Having the whole force performing high-tech desk jobs may prevent women from some of the same prejudices and stereotypes present in the other branches, where masculine ideals of physical prowess dominate the culture.

Regardless, Christensen said he has not yet seen any substantive action from Space Force leadership indicating diversity is a true priority. For example, the concept is not included in the recently-released 41-page Space Force doctrine, considered a critical founding document for the service.

Progress, or just a photo op?

Yvonne Pacheco recently retired after a 22-year career in the Air Force, a career that culminated in a post as the commanding officer of the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command in Chicago. She was the only woman of color in a command role in her battalion but lost her rank and command when superiors opposed her taking time off for hysterectomy surgery and inpatient PTSD therapy.

She said a senior officer told her command was “making an example out of her as a Black woman.” Pacheco identifies as Hispanic.

The experience led her to reach out to Protect Our Defenders for legal help. Her rank was reinstated post-retirement and she is now receiving full disability payments for her PTSD.

Pacheco looks at the Space Force announcements, as well as recent news of the first Black Air Force Academy Superintendent and the first Black Air Force Chief of Staff as positive, but ultimately hollow, developments.

Gen. Charles
Stop everything, and watch the likely next Air Force chief of staff’s powerful statement on race

“I’m thinking about how full I am with emotion, not just for George Floyd, but the many African Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd,” Gen. CQ Brown began in his heartfelt video.Stephen Losey

“It’s a photo op. (They can say,) ‘See? We like Black people. We like minorities — we promoted them. So, don’t complain anymore, OK?’” Pacheco said. “What we want to see is action. What policies are you going to drive?”

Pacheco lives in New Jersey now but still has a 719 cell number, a reminder of her time serving at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

She said problems with gender and race discrimination come down to how the military is organized. As discrimination reports move up the chain of command, she believes senior officers don’t have the proper incentives to act on the charges and instead seek to suppress them to avoid looking bad themselves — a pervasive problem she said requires a fundamental change to the force’s command and reporting infrastructure.

‘We’re going to make you proud’

The Space Force’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Carrie Baker said as a Black woman, she has encountered racism from superiors in her more than two decades with the Air Force but does not believe any of it was intentionally motivated.

Baker argued the recent staffing announcements from the Air Force and Space Force go “beyond window dressing.”

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright posted a lengthy and passionate thread on Twitter about police brutality and the deaths of black men like George Floyd Monday night. (Air Force)
Chief Wright: ‘I am George Floyd,’ promises review of Air Force justice system

“Believe me, my heart starts racing like most other Black men in America when I see those blue [police] lights behind me,” Wright said.Stephen Losey

She said starting the force from scratch gives top leaders a chance to set a new standard of zero tolerance for racial and gender bias. And she pointed to several different efforts: outreach initiatives targeted to recruiting women and people of color, mentoring panels to help those service members advance, and a “heavy emphasis” on training senior officers to recognize unconscious bias. She said the Space Force is fostering a culture where a warfighter can speak to superiors about their concerns without fear of retribution.

“Inclusion is not a zero-sum game,” Baker said. “By leveraging our diverse talents, no one is going to be left out. The pie does not get smaller. It gets bigger.”

“Keep your eye on us,” she said. “We’re going to make you proud.”

Looking for sustainable change

Tanya Wood lives in San Antonio, Texas, and works in IT for the Department of Defense. She previously spent two decades with the Air Force, including eight years as an intelligence analyst — a computer-bound role very much like the jobs performed by members of the Space Force today.

The more traditional work environment did not prevent a culture of misogyny and racism, Woods said. Instead, as one of the only Black women in her position, she was constantly challenged by her white male colleagues and required to prove her abilities and qualifications in ways those men never had to.

Wood said her Air Force career was rife with sexual harassment and assault. She said she was raped while on active duty and then encouraged by superiors not to report it.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein testifies before the Senate Armed Services on Capitol Hill December 03, 2019 in Washington, DC. In a June 1 memo, Goldfein denounced the death of George Floyd as a
Goldfein: ‘Every American should be outraged’ at police conduct in death of George Floyd

“The death of George Floyd is a national tragedy,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in a memo, sent hours after his top enlisted advisor declared “I am George Floyd.”Stephen Losey

Later, in her civilian role, she described severe retaliation for whistleblowing within the Department of Defense, leading to a 14-month suspension without pay as well as a suspension of her security clearance. She said it took 3,000 pages of evidence to clear her name and has yet to receive payment for the months of lost income.

Wood, like Pacheco, worries the Space Force will suffer from the same “archaic process” used when reporting discrimination as its mother branch. She looks at the all-female Space Operations Squadron as a sign of how the Space Force could really build itself better on issues where the Air Force has failed. However, her reading of history leaves her pessimistic.

She points to the Tuskegee Airmen, the decorated Black pilots of World War II, and their legacy in the military.

“Do we still have that level of diversity now?” Wood said. “Was that sustainable or were there more minorities coming into those fields (afterward)? … It has to be sustainable.”

Columbus OHIO region programs pushing the needle on diversity in tech

Efforts like Per Scholas, Black Tech Columbus and Level D&I are getting more Black people, women and other underrepresented people into technology careers.

Five months ago, Ty Vinson didn’t even know she wanted a career in technology.

The former stay-at-home Columbus mom had taken time off since 2012—she holds an electrical engineering technology degree—to home-school her kids and volunteer with local community organizations when she found Per Scholas for a young person she was mentoring.

Per Scholas is a free program that introduces people—young, and not so young—to the technology industry through an intense, short program leading to tech certification. Intrigued, Vinson ended up joining the training with her young mentee.

“For a while I felt uncomfortable, thinking, ‘Is it too late for me to get into tech?’ As some of the older people in the program started to come out of their shells, I felt empowered, too,” she says.

Participation in the Per Scholas program launched a new career for Vinson, who joined the Dublin office of TEKsystems, bringing not only her past professional experience and diversity to the table—she identifies as Native American—but prodigious skills in time management and dogged determination.



Hanover, Maryland-based TEKsystems says it has hired more than 400 Per Scholas graduates across six U.S. markets since 2015. “This strategic partnership not only helps address the talent gap and strengthen diversity in IT, but is more proof that it is possible for organizations to do well by doing good,” says CEO Jay Alvather in an announcement about the partnership.

Per Scholas’ rapid certification program, which trains many people who bring backgrounds and identities vastly underrepresented in the technology industry, is just one of the efforts in the Columbus region to help the industry become more diverse.

Discrimination in tech

A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 found many Black people experienced discrimination in STEM occupations.

Percent of those in science, technology, engineering and math jobs who say the following:

They have experienced discrimination at work due to their race/ethnicity

13% white

62% Black

Their race/ethnicity has made it harder to succeed in their job

5% white

40% Black

Their workplace pays too little attention to increasing racial/ethnic diversity

15% white

57% Black

Percent saying Blacks are usually treated fairly
in their workplace in…

The recruitment and hiring process

78% white

43% Black

Opportunities for promotion and advancement

75% white

37% Black

Source: Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults, 2017

In doing so, tech leaders are hoping to plug the talent gap in an extremely tight labor market, too.

Making space

Doug McCollough is one of the few African-Americans who has sat in a top tech role in the region. Now CIO for the city of Dublin, McCollough says the tech industry represents a huge opportunity for minorities, especially in the “tech adjacent” roles such as sales or project management.

But the African Americans he spoke to weren’t seeing the same opportunities. And employers he spoke to across his leadership roles in private industry and with state agencies said they were having trouble finding diverse candidates to fill their positions. McCollough decided to do something about bridging that gap. He and a group of other prominent Black technologists formed Black Tech Columbus in 2018.

McCollough says the organization is a first step.

“One thing that many Black tech professionals experience is being the only one in the room. You get recruited, suddenly you’re the only African American on the team, maybe in the whole division or company. And you are expected to thrive and perform in that environment. Sometimes people don’t,” McCollough says. “I’d say in this country we train in tech,” he says, but people from underrepresented backgrounds aren’t automatically equipped with the confidence to smoothly network in a business culture different from their own, especially when they may lack social ties to wealth and status.

Black Tech aims to help connect, train and mentor African American technologists to navigate those often choppy waters, and also to lift each other through the corporate ranks with mentorship—or to inspire entrepreneurship.

However, McCollough says, getting Black technologists a foot in the door isn’t the only thing that needs to happen. Though he says he’s found a positive, open attitude in the Columbus tech community, the industry needs a hand with retention as well.

Recruitment missteps

Level D&I is a new tech staffing consultancy spun out of Revel IT focused on helping companies increase their diversity from the ground up. Co-founder and CEO Kristine Snow says clients often know racism and sexism are a problem in the industry, but don’t realize unintentional biases in their own workplaces are throwing up barriers keeping women and minorities from feeling welcome. “There are tools out there to remove biases, trainings to put recruiting staff through, because people just naturally gravitate toward individuals like themselves,” Snow says.

Tonjia Coverdale, associate vice president for workforce and legal technology at Nationwide, urges employers to look in the right places for talent. “It really starts with someone turning over different rocks,” she says.

Coverdale herself was recruited out of Morgan State University, a historically Black university in Baltimore, three decades ago when IBM came to a campus job fair for the first time. From there, Coverdale has surfed back and forth between academia and the corporate world, working with Accenture and HP, and earning an MBA from Georgia State University and a Ph.D. from Morgan State.

She served as CEO of the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, overseeing creation of fiber-optic networks in the islands, and she created a STEAM academy there. She recently left the CIO helm at Central State University, a historically Black college in Wilberforce, Ohio, to advance Nationwide’s tech diversity efforts.

None of that, she says, would have been possible if IBM hadn’t started looking in the right place for her at the right time. “There’s an HBCU [historically Black college or university] one hour away, and many companies here are just now starting to recruit there largely because of the work I’ve done over the past three years. They’re from Ohio, I keep saying—stop trying to get people to move from the coasts.”

Per Scholas is another player building bridges between new hires and their employers.

Most of the organization’s students come from nontraditional paths like Vinson’s. More recently, Per Scholas has been building custom training programs with employers looking for particular skill sets.

Toni Cunningham, Per Scholas Columbus managing director, says 60 percent to 65 percent of her students are people of color. The competition for individuals like her graduates is intense, she says, in a field where “unless you are going to poach, you have to have some tolerance for individuals you can bring in, culture and grow.”

As a result, companies are finding that building pipeline partnerships is paying off for them. Coverdale and others like McCollough call for more investment in new hires, however.

“You can’t just get students in the door—where are your wraparound supports?” Coverdale says. “How are they to learn the norms? And when they don’t, they’re punished. So are we really investing in these new hires?”

Some paths in tech may not be well-lit for newbies, says McCollough. Black Tech wants to help shine spotlights on those clusters of opportunities—in, say, cybersecurity or data analysis.

“You can’t hire some of these folks out of school,” he says. “It takes years of experience and direction to become an architect or a senior level engineer, so to get on that path, you need other professionals to say hey, this is what you need to do to put you on a path to this level of income or influence in your organization,” McCollough says.

Cynthia Bent Findlay is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.

How Children’s Shows Lead the Way in Diversity on TV

More than half of kids series on major networks and streamers are inclusive, a fact that execs say attracts similar talent behind the scenes and can “create loyalty for life” among viewers.

When Doc McStuffins premiered in 2012 on Disney Channel, its title character was the first Black girl to be front and center in a preschool animated series.

Eight years later, more than half of the current scripted shows on Disney, Nickelodeon and their respective junior channels — both live action and animated — feature people of color or members of the LGBTQ community as main characters. Netflix, which has made a major push into kids and family programming the past few years, isn’t too far behind. PBS has been heralding diversity in children’s programming since Sesame Street debuted in 1969 and now has the first kids show with an Alaska Native as its lead in Molly of Denali, an animated series that premiered in summer 2019. And the 14-year-old protagonist of Disney’s new animated series The Owl House is the network’s first bisexual lead character.

At a time when the TV industry at large is grappling with its weak history of inclusivity in front of and behind the camera — amid nationwide calls for racial and social justice and the continued advocacy of groups like Color of Change and the Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity — it might take some lessons from shows aimed at the youngest viewers.

The 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report from UCLA showed that while minority groups had made gains, they were still underrepresented as leads on mainstream shows compared to their percentage of the population. Meanwhile, of 56 current scripted series for kids across Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Netflix, 30 of them — about 54 percent — have lead characters from traditionally underrepresented populations. (The numbers exclude shows like Nick’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Disney’s Duck Tales that are primarily populated with non-human characters.)

22biz_kidTV-Doc McStuffins- Publicity Still - H 2020
Courtesy of Disney Jr.

“We are in the first window of media consumption for kids, and that is an incredible responsibility and an incredible opportunity,” Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Along with Nick and some of the other streaming services now, I feel like, to some degree, we’ve helped change the sociology of a generation of kids by consistently showcasing a spectrum that looks different, certainly, from the TV that I grew up on.”

The idea of diversity in children’s TV isn’t new; Sesame Street has been an inclusive show from its beginnings more than a half century ago, and shows like Disney’s The Proud Family and That’s So Raven revolved around Black characters during the early 2000s. But, until recently, it hasn’t been the norm. Now, people working in kids programming say they see an effort by studios and outlets to not only show inclusive characters onscreen but also diversify the creative ranks.

“I think as you have more younger creatives, there tends to be more of an openness to show who they are,” says Elizabeth Ito, an animation veteran and writer on Adventure Time who’s now working on a show called City of Ghosts for Netflix. “Gradually, there has been a little bit more acceptance and more awareness of all sorts of things that I think everybody was really clumsy about before as far as diversity and representation, not even just talking about race.”

Ramsey Naito, who heads Nickelodeon Animation, says that in addition to looking for stories that come from a wide range of creators, she’s also hoping to diversify those guiding the ViacomCBS network.

“I knew that I had to build a team, which meant we had to reorganize leadership and hire with a focus on diverse leadership,” she says. “And I think over the past year and a half, you’d be able to see many announcements that we made [regarding] leadership and promotion that illustrate how diverse our leadership is, which is fantastic. Because what that does is it attracts diverse stories, diverse talents, to come to Nick and see themselves in our leadership and tell stories that they know we relate to.”

Anna Berthold, a motion picture literary agent at UTA who works extensively in the animation space, says talk from studios, networks and streamers about wanting diverse creators is “not just lip service.”

22biz_kidTV-The Casagrandes-Publicity still - H 2020
Courtesy of Nickelodeon

“It’s what they’re asking for — ‘We want to hear more from Black creators, LGBTQ creators, Asian, Latinx,’ ” she says. “Not all of it is hitting screens right now because of the long lead time for animation, but it’s going to be. It’s clearly a priority.”

That’s not to say, however, that the kids TV business is doing everything right. Doc McStuffins creator Chris Nee tells THR that while onscreen inclusivity is rising — that show also was the first of its kind to feature a family led by LGBTQ parents — there’s still work to be done in hiring and staffing behind the camera.

“It’s a self-defining issue, as it often is,” says Nee, who now has a multiyear overall deal at Netflix. “By not portraying diverse voices, we don’t present ourselves as an open door for someone to imagine themselves in this career and working in this end of the business. So you stop people [from] heading toward becoming animators or writers for animation. We have to change all of that to make [it] clear that diverse talent is a priority.”

Nee notes that she tries to further that cause through mentorship — not under a studio or network program but by actually hiring people from underrepresented groups to work on her shows. “For me, that’s hiring people at a coordinator level but actively working to promote them,” she says. “That’s been a great way for me to develop a lot of homegrown talent within my own organization, and people are now showrunners and creators and EPs who started as my coordinators.”

Kenny Ortega has presided over two of Disney Channel’s biggest original movie franchises, directing 2006’s High School Musical, its sequels and the three Descendants films. All had diverse casts, and his latest project, the Netflix series Julie and the Phantoms, stars 16-year-old Puerto Rican newcomer Madison Reyes. He notes that unlike his early days in the business, when he’d have to fight to hire nonwhite dancers for projects he choreographed, inclusive casting is becoming the norm.

22biz_kidTV-Seseme Street-Photofest still - H 2020
PBS/Photofest

“I remember having to say, ‘Look, if we’re going to work together, you need to know I come with ideas, and if I’m not going to be able to bring those ideas into the work, then you’re maybe looking at the wrong person,'” he says. “And suddenly I’m walking in the room and people are telling me that. ‘We’re a diverse-thinking company and we want to find balance in the way that we look at our casting.’ And I’m like, ‘Really? This is fantastic.’ I don’t have to engage in that conversation up front.”

PBS Kids head of content Linda Simensky recalls showing her own children the series she worked on in the 1990s when she was at Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. “They were laughing at them — not with them but at them,” she says. “I asked, ‘What’s wrong,’ and they said, ‘They’re so white.’ To them, that just seemed kind of ridiculous.”

Executives in kids programming say that developing and making inclusive shows is just good business — and that includes Simensky, who doesn’t face the commercial or sub- scriber-retention imperatives that for-profit outlets do.

“You still want viewers, and I feel like capturing the world as it is makes perfect sense,” she says. “Kids should see themselves somewhere on our air.”

Disney’s Marsh says programming for diverse audiences by this point is simply “Brand 101.”

“To the extent that I can find content or images that look like [viewers’] homes, their clothing, their recreational activities, their family structures, they will connect more deeply with the content and with the brand,” he says.

22biz_kidTV-The Proud Family-Photofest still - H 2020
Disney Channel/Photofest

“And, again, being in the first media window for many of these people, if I can establish that connection in their minds for what Disney represents to them — that ‘Disney gets me,’ ‘Disney hears me’ — I create loyalty for life.”

That talk has all happened before, of course, without resulting in systemic change. Nee hopes the current moment turns out to be a true tipping point.

“I hope this is the year this becomes an ingrained part of how people think — that you have to think differently and think outside of your own point of view and the scope of seeing things you grew up with, and it’s better for all of us,” she says. “I hope that sticks.”

22biz_kidTV-chart_W_embed-2020-1597791679
The Hollywood Reporter

Google recruiting group warns minority turnover will continue without clearer diversity goals

  • Google employees in charge of overseeing partnerships with universities are asking executives for clearer goals around diversity and retention.
  • In an internal letter obtained by CNBC, University Programs employees say they are seeking more clarity around discrepancies in roles, promotions and pay.
  • A list of suggestions includes a call for pay data and more retention of Black and Latino talent already within the organization.

Employees in charge of Google’s relationships with universities are asking executives to set clearer goals around diversity, claiming that the company’s difficulty retaining non-White employees hurts recruiting, according to an internal email viewed by CNBC.

The company’s University Programs team represents Google to colleges and oversees outreach, events, internships and career opportunities at the company. Employees on that team originally sent a letter to Google director of people operations Kyle Ewing in June, following nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.

The letter shows employee dissatisfaction with executives’ actions thus far in terms of recruiting diverse employees, and outlines a list of ways to clarify the roles and goals of University Programs employees, petitioning for things such as pay data and a “more rigorous” interview process for White applicants before taking on a role that touches diversity.

“We are the first step in shaping what Google will look like in the next year, two years and beyond,” the letter said. “It is crucial that we are working towards building a culture of inclusion and each UPer should be assessed on that, especially since our work directly ties back to increasing representation. We don’t want to bring in talented students who end up leaving because the future isn’t what they thought it would be.”

“We deeply appreciated this email, which we received in June, and all Googlers taking an active part in our racial equity commitments,” said a Google spokesperson. “We are working on turning these concrete commitments into lasting, meaningful change.”

‘We want this conversation to be different’

In late June, after the Floyd killing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company would commit $175 million toward supporting black businesses and said it plans to increase “underrepresented” people in its leadership by 30% by 2025.

However, since then, some employees have questioned the depth of these public commitments to racial justice and diversity programs amid reports of malfunctioning employee resources. 

While Google has touted its diversity hiring initiatives through recent years, it has made little progress in actually building and maintaining a diverse workforce. Attrition rates for Google’s Black U.S. employees remain stagnant from a year ago at 12% — higher than the average Google employee — with Black females seeing a particular spike in attrition from last year, up 18%,according to the company’s 2020 diversity report. That represents slow but staggered progress from the 27% attrition rate the company saw when it first reported those statistics in 2017.

While the letter praised Ewing, saying her “openness and willingness to speak about the convoluted issues of race and equity are much needed,” it also suggested more discussion of why such efforts are needed within the organization, as well as more accountability from leadership.

“Though there has been renewed focus on this subject matter recently — it has been an area of hurt, frustration and insurmountable fatigue for many of us for a long time,” employees wrote. “As such, we want this conversation to be different; we want to ensure accountability and the right actions are taken.”

In particular, the list includes a call for improving retention by cultivating and growing Black and Latino talent already within the organization, some of whom are at risk of leaving.

It also called executives to build an “accountability system” where all managers are required to do an “audit” that includes providing time and pay data of University Programs employees of color at each level compared with White team members — past and present.

“Many white UPers have received their quick promotions and since left the team for bigger opportunities,” the letter states. “Does it take a member of a minoritized group longer to be promoted at Google? If so, why and how?”

The letter asks the company to incorporate staffers’ participation in diversity organizations such as employee resource groups into their performance and promotion considerations, recognizing it as a core part of their roles as opposed to an extracurricular activity.

“As Sundar mentioned in his email on our racial equity commitments, ‘Creating meaningful change starts within our company,’” the group wrote.

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Women continue to be underrepresented in some of the world’s largest tech conferences. Lin Classon, vice president at Downers Grove-based IT company Ensono, joins the podcast to discuss how the industry can use virtual events as a step toward inclusion.

Plus: Suburban Cook makes the state’s COVID warning list, United Airlines drops fees while American slashes its schedule, Walgreens names former Rite Aid CEO to lead its U.S. business and former employees of failed Bridgeport bank hit with federal charges. Find #CrainsDailyGist on Twitter and let’s continue the conversation.

Delta Air Lines, Ralph Lauren among companies pledging to boost diversity in boardroom

Some of the country’s most profitable brands are putting money behind promises to boost diversity and inclusion.

Wells Fargo, fashion house Ralph Lauren Corp. and Delta are joining a handful of other companies setting work place goals in recent months to bolster minority leadership, Bloomberg reported.

On the heels of a $7.8 million hiring settlement with the Department of Labor for allegations of hiring discrimination against women and Black workers, Wells Fargo will increase Black leadership by 12%, Bloomberg reported. Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, said that by 2025 it would double the percentage of Black officers and directors, the organization’s CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees last month.   Currently, 7% of Delta’s top 100 officers are Black.

Others, like American fashion brand Ralph Lauren Corp. pledged to allocate 20% of its leadership roles globally to people of color, including Black, Asian and Latino workers, by 2023, the company announced on an earnings call Aug. 4. The fashion house also pledged to provide unconscious bias training.

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Corporate America’s call to action was sparked following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Companies, in response, began vowing to fund efforts to support the Black community.

The initiatives also come as more states move to enforce the bolstering of racial diversity in the boardroom. California passed a bill Monday stipulating that publically traded companies headquartered in the Golden State need to have at least one board member from a minority community by the end of 2021, and at least two or three by the end of 2022. If the bill passes into law, companies that defy it would be on the hook for fines starting at $100,000.

A number of companies have appeared to bolster diversity at work with diversity and inclusion training in the past, albeit after being publically shamed.

In June, an email from a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. employee about experiencing racial injustice at the bank went viral. The employee, managing director Frederick Baba, who is Black, called out managers for failing to support diversity among its bankers at work. Goldman Sachs implemented a $10 million fund for racial equity for the firm and its current and retired senior employees to “direct grants to support underserved communities around the world.”

And last year, LVMH-owned Sephora shut down for an hour-long diversity training for its 16,000 employees after singer SZA, who is Black, claimed she was racially profiled at a California store.

Landmark bill in California would require diversity in corporate boardrooms

The California legislature has passed a landmark bill that will force big companies in the state to honor their recent commitment to racial justice by requiring their boardrooms to be more racially diverse by the end of 2021.

That means action according to a calendar spelled out in the bill passed Sunday in the Democratic-led legislature. Publicly traded companies headquartered in the state must have at least one board member from an underrepresented community by the end of 2021 and two or three by the end of 2022, depending on the size of the board, according to the bill.

The bill identifies underrepresented communities as those who self-identify as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native or gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The office of one of the bill’s authors, Assemblyman Chris Holden, said that while there are some similar laws in the U.S. based on gender, this is the first on race.

“Corporations have money, power, and influence,” Holden (D-Pasadena) said in a statement. “If we are going to address racial injustice and inequity in our society, it’s imperative that corporate boards reflect the diversity of our state. One great benefit of this action – corporations with ethnically diverse boards have shown to outperform those that lack diversity.”

It’s not clear when or if Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to sign the bill into law.

A spokesman for Newsom said Monday that the governor’s office doesn’t typically comment on pending legislation.

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If it becomes law, violators would be subject to fines starting at $100,000.

Holden’s office cited a Harvard Law School report from 2018 that said out of 1,222 new board members at Fortune 100 companies, 77% were white. Corporate boards typically govern and advise company executives on a part-time basis and sometimes mask an even greater lack of diversity among a company’s top executive ranks. A recent USA TODAY analysis found that of 279 top executives at the 50 biggest companies in the Standard & Poor’s 100, only five were Black, including two who recently retired.

The corporate boardrooms at those same companies were 11% Black. Many top tech companies in California still have all-white executives in the top five executive spots listed on their regulatory filings, including Apple, Facebook and Netflix.

The bill cited studies that show companies perform better with more diverse leadership, as they serve a market that is becoming less white and more diverse.

“There is enough evidence to show there is discrimination,” Holden said. The numbers simply don’t lie.”

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The racial composition of corporate America has received new scrutiny in recent months after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of a white policeman in Minneapolis. In response to his and other police-related killings, companies issued statements and pledged financial support for the Black community.

Holden’s office cited this support while also noting that “this public support for social justice movements often does not lead to long-term structural change in hiring and retention policies of a diverse staff and leadership.”

Attorney Keith Bishop was the only person to testify against the bill in in the Assembly’s banking and finance committee hearing Sunday. He said the bill would impose quotas and violates the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and state constitutions as well as the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. Writing in the National Law Review, Bishop said the bill “will arbitrarily privilege females from underrepresented communities over males from those same communities.  It will also arbitrarily privilege transgender females over other females.”

The bill follows a similar law in California passed in 2018 that required a minimum number of women on the boards of directors for publicly traded companies headquartered in the state.

Since that law was enacted, 78% of the 511 director seats filled by women in California are white, 3.3% are Latina and 5.3% are African American, according to data cited in the new bill.

The new bill would require companies with nine or more board members to have a minimum of three from underrepresented communities. Companies with fewer than nine but more than four board members would be required to have a minimum of two from underrepresented communities.

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Best Buy says 30% of 1,000 new tech hires will be people of color or women

The pledge is part of ramped-up efforts since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody 

Best Buy plans on hiring more than 1,000 new tech employees in the next two years — and 30% will be people of color or women.

“We are being incredibly intentional about our hiring decisions and how we approach each and every team to make sure it aligns with the communities in which we operate,” said Mark Irvin, Best Buy’s chief inclusion, diversity and talent officer, in an interview.

Executives at the Richfield-based electronics chain said the new hiring plan for positions such as engineers and product managers is one of several steps the company is taking to address disparities within the tech industry. They said the move also will result in better services and experiences for Best Buy customers.

Earlier this year, the company furloughed about 51,000 employees, the majority of whom were part-time workers. Best Buy has brought about two-thirds of them back to work.

Best Buy’s technology team works on a range of tasks from working on the company’s website and mobile app to creating the tools that employees use to troubleshoot for customers. Positions include user-experience designers, data scientists and digital engineers.

The company said its new hires will extend beyond the Twin Cities to also include remote, full-time opportunities in its technology offices in San Diego, Boston and Seattle.

Best Buy specifically wants to add more Black, Latino, Indigenous and female workers to its digital and technology ranks.

Nationally, people of color and women continue to be underrepresented in many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations.

Black and Hispanic workers make up 16% of STEM workers but 27% of the total workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. While women make up half of all U.S. workers in STEM jobs, the percentage is lower in roles such as computer science and engineering.

In early June after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry wrote an open letter to customers, vowing that the electronics retailer would “do better” in addressing racial inequality.

“What do we do to change the cycle in which Black men or women, with tragic frequency, are harmed by those who are supposed to protect them? Or the gut-wrenching truth that to be a person of color in America is often to not feel fully safe, seen or heard?” she wrote in a company blog post. “For me, it starts with seeing the situation for what it is, acknowledging these experiences for what they are and, quite simply, apologizing for not doing enough. As important, it includes committing the company I lead down a path of systemic, permanent change in as many ways as we can find.”

Best Buy has since formed an internal task force to look at ways the company can combat inequity.ADVERTISEMENT

As part of its commitment to diversity, Best Buy has announced a new $3 million scholarship fund in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) for Black students attending historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The company also has launched a scholarship for students attending the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

Best Buy executives also said they hope the company will be able to recruit future workers through its network of Teen Tech Centers, which provide young people with hands-on experience in technology, training and mentorship.

The centers offer career programs that provide training for tech jobs as well as potential internship and entry-level jobs at Best Buy. The company has 35 centers across the country and has a goal of more than 100 centers.

The company also is developing additional programs to train those interested in technology with skills that can be used in careers at Best Buy.

“Our obsession is to create amazing customer experiences with technology, and we are only going to do that if we have the full diversity of our team behind that in a way that’s aligned with the diversity of the population,” said Brian Tilzer, Best Buy’s chief digital and technology officer. “We can only create amazing experiences if we understand the breadth of the customers we are serving.”ADVERTISEMENT

Strengthening digital capabilities will only become more important to Best Buy’s strategy moving forward. Earlier this week, Best Buy reported its strongest online sales ever for a fiscal quarter. Best Buy’s online comparable sales for the second quarter jumped 242% to $4.85 billion.

The company also announced it would experiment on with its mobile app with the use of augmented reality technology and a self-service, in-aisle checkout pilot.

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