Netflix commissioned a diversity study of its movies and TV shows that showed improvement in representation from 2018 to 2019, but gaps still remain.
The company will spend $100 million over the next five years to fund organizations that help underrepresented communities find jobs in TV and film.
Netflix released a first-of-its-kind diversity study Friday to analyze the makeup of Netflix’s on-screen talent, as well as the behind-the-camera creators, producers, writers and directors.
The report shows that the company has made progress, but still has more work to do to close diversity gaps. The company says it’s committing to an “inclusion lens” to its work, which co-CEO Ted Sarandos says means asking questions like, “Whose voice is missing? Is this portrayal authentic? Who is excluded?”
The company also announced the creation of the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, which will invest $100 million over the next five years in organizations that help underrepresented communities train and find jobs in TV and film. Netflix also committed to releasing an update on this study every two years through 2026.
The study was conducted, at Netflix’s request, by Stacy Smith, who has a PhD in communications and human development and is the founder and director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative produces regular reports on diversity in film and television. Smith’s team examined all of the films and series Netflix commissioned between 2018 and 2019. Of the 22 inclusion indicators (such as racial identities, LGBTQ+ and disabilities), 19 showed improvement over the two-year period.
Netflix’s strengths in diversity are around women. The study found gender equality in leading roles across films and TV series. Smith also found that Netflix is outpacing the industry in hiring women and people of color as directors. Netflix was also found to exceed proportional representation of Black leads and main cast.
But the report also found that other racial and ethnic groups were underrepresented relative to the U.S. population. LatinX characters were just 4% of leads, despite being 12% of the population, and just 3% of creators and producers were LatinX.
The study also found that LGBTQ+ characters were rare: just 4% of leads in film and 1% in TV series. And while the study says that 27% of the U.S. population identifies as having a disability, fewer than 1% of series leads, and just 5% of series main cast were characters with disabilities.
“Dr. Smith’s years of research — including this new study — confirm that inclusion behind the camera exponentially increases inclusion in front of the camera, and that both depend on ensuring that the Netflix executives commissioning these stories are also diverse,” Sarandos wrote in a blog post about the report. “Doing better means establishing even more opportunities for people from underrepresented communities to have their voices heard, and purposefully closing capacity and skill gaps with training programs where they are needed.”
Friday’s news and the company’s fund is the latest in a series of commitments to diversity.
In January, the company released its first Inclusion Report about Netflix’s employee ranks. And in June, Netflix made a $100 million commitment to support Black communities by putting 2% of its cash holdings into Black financial institutions serving low- and moderate-income communities.
Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings has also made a personal commitment to diversity. In June, Hastings and his wife donated $120 million to historically Black colleges and universities.
Workforce diversity goes beyond just setting a hiring strategy: You may have to overhaul your culture to ensure new hires feel welcome and can thrive. That accountability ultimately rests with the executive team and the CEO.
“Too often, diversity has been seen as only an HR program and not core to the business,” explained Ian Cook, vice president of people analytics at Vancouver-based workforce analytics startup Visier.
In order to build a sustainable change in diversity, he added, you need to have a leadership group that understands the process, represents the company you want to be, and can build the type of inclusive culture which makes diversity real and not just a numbers game.
As Cook also noted, often companies looking to improve diversity automatically look to hire more people from underrepresented groups. Their approach might prove even more successful if they grow and promote into management existing employees from diverse backgrounds.
“To avoid being grouped with the rest of the IT sector, companies need to combine clear statements about their intent and actions toward building a diverse and inclusive culture, with a level of transparency about their current state and progress towards goals,” he said. “Statements without action are worse than doing nothing.”
Those points were seconded by Deb Hill, director of HR for workspace management specialist FM:Systems, who said businesses must be intentional when it comes to their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) profile.
“Software and IT have typically been primarily male and white, and so the challenge is how to do we change that dynamic within the organization,” she said. “We really believe that support comes from the top.”
Hill explained it’s about ensuring that diverse viewpoints are amplified throughout the organization, and how you build talent development programs that help the next generation of leaders be more diverse. “Internally, we have an employee resource group called GROW—Growing Relationships and Opportunities for Women—in place for a couple of years,” she continued. “This group has provided a way for women in technology to connect more deeply and talk about challenges specific to women, and it serves as a peer support group. That has contributed to the increase number of females in the organization over the past two years.
Hill’s company is currently establishing other employee resource groups, such as one for people of color. “We want those groups to be employee led,” she noted. “This isn’t an HR initiative: We want employees to feel like they have a say in what kind of content they want, what sorts of career development opportunities would be best for them.”
FM:Systems CEO Kurt von Koch admitted there’s been a lot of lip service paid to diversity initiatives, adding many organizations say the candidates “just aren’t there.” His experience suggests that when you go out and make the added effort, it can be done.
“It’s in the actual numbers and in the actual makeup of your organization—how you get to that is showing your progress and providing that transparency throughout the organization,” he said. “Here’s our progress, here are the successes, and here’s where we’re still behind—being transparent is another important element of where the rubber meets the road.”
Heather Paunet, Senior Vice President at Untangle, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of comprehensive network security for SMBs, said cybersecurity, as an industry, thrives because so many professionals come from different backgrounds and skill sets.
Some general advice for employers to attract a more diverse security workforce: Go beyond the standard EEO statement. Show your progress on your website. Work with associations such as International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP) to support and bring in diverse talent.
“Making hiring managers aware of general actions that can lead to a less diverse security workforce can be helpful,” she said. “Without thinking about it too deeply, we can have a natural pull towards people that are more like us based on their backgrounds and skill sets and education, and perhaps work experience.”
Lisa Plaggemier, chief strategy officer at MediaPro, a Seattle, Washington-based provider of cybersecurity and privacy education, pointed out that, while a lot of people will lay the responsibility for fostering a culture of inclusivity at the feet of senior leadership or HR, the reality is it’s up to every individual.
“Companies are made up of individuals, and the way you conduct yourself matters,” she said. “Don’t wait for a corporate ‘program’ or training—take the initiative yourself to make your team a better place for people who come from underrepresented groups. If you’re in a managerial role, consider that everyone doesn’t respond to the same management style.”
That may mean you need to adjust to connect with and foster high-potential talent from different backgrounds. “The best bosses I’ve worked for were men who understood how to mentor women—many of us tend to be more risk adverse and less bold than our male counterparts—so they altered their management style to work with me on my challenges,” she continued. “At the end of the day, I think it comes down to culture—company culture, team culture. You want to create a culture where everyone feels welcome and comfortable. People feel it when they interview with your team.”
As Hill pointed out, if you’re not retaining diverse talent, trying to attract that diverse talent is for naught. “Increasingly, the focus is still on diversity, but it’s about that inclusion part and how we ensure employees feel connected and they feel like they belong in the organization,” she said. “As an employee, I want to be able to bring my whole self to work, and how I can feel more connected to the people I work with, both the people who have similar backgrounds and experiences, and those who have different backgrounds and experiences.”
“We want employees to know we’re not just window-washing,” said one media diversity executive.
After last year’s killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, many digital and print media outlets pledged to address the discussions about the nation’s race relations problems by starting with their own workforces. They created diversity and inclusion positions, hired more people of color and launched new programs aimed at reducing racial bias.
Then came a series of well-publicized and diverse hirings in the print and digital space: Condé Nast-owned Bon Appétit brought in Dawn Davis as editor-in-chief and Sonia Chopra as its executive editor. The Boston Globe promoted Anica Butler to a deputy editor role. Samira Nasr became top editor of the U.S. edition of Hearst-owned Harper’s Bazaar. And Vice-owned Refinery 29 brought in Simone Oliver to run the site. Condé Nast also added an executive-level role focused on diversity and inclusion to address broader problems it had identified.
“It’s actually kind of shocking to see how many Black people have been elevated to higher positions. It’s amazing and we don’t take this moment lightly,” said Emil Wilbekin, an activist and a contributing writer to numerous publications, including The New York Times and Essence magazine. “But there’s always been a lack of Black professionals. So playing catch up is tough.”
But newly released data shows that beyond these few key hires, very little has changed when it comes to newsroom diversity. Hiring and employee data collected by Condé Nast, Hearst and Vice show that minorities remain underrepresented at nearly every level of these companies and across departments. Also, while some companies showed improvements in the hiring of employees of color, at most companies, the majority of new jobs continued to be filled by white people.
NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC, has also worked to address its own diversity issues. In 2020, NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde announced a goal that the news group staff be made up of 50 percent women and 50 percent people of color, but did not specify a timeline. Since his commitment, there have been more hires and promotions of people of color, including the appointment of Rashida Jones as president of MSNBC. Newly released date for the news group shows that since this goal was announced, 49.2% of new full-time staff hires have been people of color.
“We definitely need to do more work,” Wilbekin said. “There are so many talented Black journalists and content creators who leave the media industry because there seems to be this glass ceiling that can’t be broken. They don’t see a clear path for themselves.”
Now that news outlets have made a few strategic hires, media executives are realizing just how much they have to do as they try to tackle these bigger and deeper problems, from coming up with plans to listen to employees’ concerns better to seeking out more diverse job candidates and instituting internal training aimed at reducing bias.
“I am excited that we have come to a place in corporate U.S. discussions where race is on the table as a topic of discussion and not something people have to hide,” said Yashica Olden, the newly hired global chief diversity and inclusion officer at Condé Nast. “I also realize this is not a sprint. This is a real journey and we’ve got to give ourselves time to get to where we want. That’s the challenge. I have to be realistic about where we are.”
That’s something that Daisy Auger-Domínguez, Vice Media Group’s new Chief People Officer, said she has also realized. She’s currently working on what she calls a job architecture report that she plans to release to employees in the next month or so that will help map out a long-term path forward.
“We’ll be able to transparently share with employees across the company what their job level is and what it takes to go to the next job level,” she said. “Most organizations struggle with that.”
Auger-Domínguez was hired in May, just weeks before employees at Refinery29, a women’s lifestyle publication, spoke out about broader racism they experienced at the organization. Editor-in-chief Christene Barberich resigned in what she said hoped would “help diversify our leadership in editorial.” (Her replacement, Oliver, is a Black woman with more than 13 years of experience at The New York Times, Condé Nast, Facebook and Instagram.)
Following the upheaval at Refinery29, Auger-Domínguez immediately set out on a “listening” tour with CEO Nancy Dubuc wherein they met with every employee at the company. She also made changes to existing practices, such as performance reviews, to reduce bias.
“The underpinnings of a lot of inequity in organizations is just poorly constructed systems and racially defined systems,” she said. “We want employees to know we’re not just window-washing. We’re fixing the systems that resulted in the outcomes people were experiencing.”
In October, Olden joined Condé Nast as its first global chief diversity and inclusion officer to address these problems at the company’s 37 brands. Olden has more than 20 years of experience working in the diversity and inclusion space and helping companies improve their workplaces. But she joined a company that was struggling with race issues.
Former Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned after a photo of him in a racially insensitive Halloween costume surfaced on social media. Allegations of racial discrimination were also publicized by employees, who spoke out against Bon Appétit’s culture and treatment of minorities. Also In June, allegations of racism arose at Condé Nast’s Vogue with employees complaining of instances both in the office and in some of the magazine’s content. These Condé Nast titles tried to make early changes with Bon Appétit’s top level hires and Vogue’s pledge that 15 percent of the freelancers it would hire would be Black. Since then, six of its seven covers have featured Black stars or artists.
But Olden recognizes that more work needs to be done — especially since a lot of this work to bring about cultural change and improve diversity often falls on employees of color, the very people who are being marginalized. Olden acknowledged that when companies seek the perspectives and cooperation of persons of color, it can be a lot to juggle with their regular jobs.
“It’s a lot of work and because it’s so passion-filled, it can be exhausting work for those of us who are trying to do this because we’re personally impacted by it,” Olden said.
Olden said that her plans to build out her team and efforts at Condé Nast will mirror much of what she has done in previous jobs with companies like WPP and Barclays Capital. In some instances, this has meant establishing diversity and inclusion as a core competency in annual review processes so that employees are then assessed and recognized for their contributions in this area, which might include things like leading a race or ethnicity-based employee resource group.
But these few hirings do not disguise the fact that most media organizations remain far from diverse. These newly published diversity studies show just how much work these companies need to do.
For instance, the diversity report Hearst released on Feb. 2 showed that, as of December, 73 percent of its full-time and part-time U.S.-based employees were white, while Black, Hispanic and Asian employees each made up 8 percent of the workforce.
White employees made up 64 percent of the people hired over the past 12 months, Asian and Black employees made up 11 percent and Hispanic workers made up 10 percent. Less than 1 percent of employees identified as either American Indian or Alaska Native or as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Hearst declined to comment for this article.
Vice Media Group, which released its own 2020 diversity report on Feb. 4, had a 3.9 percent increase in its number of employees of color from the year before. It also reported that roughly 54 percent of its new hires were people of color, a 9.1 percent increase from the year prior. It also reported an increase in diversity among its executive team. However, 58 percent of all U.S. employees still identified as white.
At Condé Nast, from January to August 2020, 69 percent of employees identified as white, 10 percent as Asian, 7.5 percent as Black, 6 percent as Latinx and just over 4 percent as multiracial or other. Of the new hires during this period 53 percent were white.
Richard Prince, a columnist at Journal-isms.comwho covers diversity issues in the media industry, notes that it may take giving these newly created diversity positions more authority to keep employees accountable. He notes that with time, media outlets have the ability to diversify newsrooms — if they choose to.
“There is progress, but when I walk into some of these newsrooms I get blinded by the whiteness,” Prince said. “Basically if companies truly want to [increase diversity] and change the culture, they find a way to get it done.”
The CEO of digitalundivided sat down with Worth to discuss the achievements of female founders of color, while acknowledging that progress is still slow and many barriers remain.
t’s hard to imagine Lauren Maillian ever sitting still—she exudes an energy and a drive that’s infectious and at times hard to keep up with. Maillian is the CEO of digitalundivided, an incubator for Black and Latinx female entrepreneurs. It’s a perfect fit for Maillian, who’s both founded her own businesses and been an active investor in startups for years. An astute, candid observer of the business landscape, Maillian celebrates the achievements of female founders of color, while acknowledging that progress is achingly slow and that many barriers remain.
Q: Tell me broadly where you think America stands today in terms of diversity and inclusion, compared to five or 10 years ago.
A: I think that we have not come very far in five or 10 years. And you’re speaking to someone raised in New York City at a time when there was no conversation around diversity. So that means you’re also speaking to someone who is a little numb to the conversation. And I’m now a parent in this conversation as well, seeing how far we haven’t come. I think that in these last 12 months, the conversation on inclusion and diversity has become a very black and white conversation where I think there are still so many scales and hues in between that need to be acknowledged and nurtured, discussed and appreciated before we can ever get to real diversity.RELATEDGroundbreakers 2021: 50 Women Changing the World
What’s driving that conversation?
I think the conversation is being driven by the racial reckoning we experienced in the summer. It is unfortunate, and very disheartening to me, that that has to be a series of events that take place in real life. And we still didn’t have the social change! So the totality of the cost is still TBD as far as I’m concerned, because people are dying every day, it just doesn’t make the news. I think the conversation is also being spurred by conscious consumerism and by people of color finally saying, “no, we’re actually not going to do this.” It’s an old school mechanism to show your power.
I wanted to talk about the ProjectDiane 2020 report and the findings about who’s getting funding and how you look at this report today, versus a couple of years ago.
I think the importance of the report is to underscore the disparities, the impediments and the contributions to the successes of women of color in spaces of innovation and in entrepreneurship. I think that the report initially was more of a signal and talking piece to open the door to the conversation around inclusion, in technology and innovations for women of color. I think it succeeded at doing that. And then I think that the purpose of the report moved from empower-and-inspire to track/analyze.
And then, that’s when the data came in: let us prove our worth. Let us prove out that we are scrappy with money. Let us prove out that we can get to beta testing. It’s now about changing the numbers that we do see because for a long time, there weren’t many numbers to be had to track.
So how do you see the numbers? You could argue, on the one hand, we’re still talking about a fairly small slice of all venture capital going to these women, right? On the other hand, the numbers are up and the funding numbers are up. I’m curious where you come out on that.
The numbers are up, but we still don’t have parity. Are we doing better than we did yesterday? Sure, but is the rest of the world being measured by the same measuring stick? The problem is not that we aren’t seeing progress, it’s that the progress is slow. And then in addition to that, the progress is especially slow in comparison to non-minority counterparts, who are able to leapfrog ahead at the same times where we’re looking at our progress as something that isn’t even something to celebrate, because it’s still a snail’s pace compared to everyone else.RELATEDHow Erica Lee Became the First Female CEO of Historical Publisher Marquis Who’s Who
Can you say a little more about your concept of parity?
What cripples most women of color is that you have a piece of the puzzle, but you never have all the pieces of the puzzle at the same time so that you can actually move. I think that having more fund managers who are people of color and women of color will also lead to that professional parity, because there are businesses that some people just simply don’t understand. I think the way that the funding disparity plays out can be dangerous when it becomes racially charged. And when we see a very clear demarcation in winners and losers, or those who can be perceived to be the ones who succeed and the ones who failed.
To me, professional parity is being able to win and succeed by similar standards, to be judged based upon similar standards. I know that women of color do not get to fail the 2.5 times on average that a non-minority male founder gets to fail. We don’t get those escapes. We just don’t. And so that’s what professional parity is for me. I want that treatment to be similar because when women of color fail, our failure marks us.
Do you see change happening at the VC firm level? Are we seeing more female partners? Are we seeing more partners of color?
How much do you expect the change in the administration in Washington and the change in the Senate to create improvement in the diversity? Or do you think this is systemic, and so it doesn’t matter very much who’s in power?
I think the issues are systemic. And I think that who’s in charge and who has the ability to fix the system that we live within is exactly how we’re going to get to both professional parity, any sort of social change that can be sustainable and inclusive. So I think it’s up to the administration to make it a point. And so far, we’ve seen some executive orders pointing in that direction already. It’s still unfortunate to me to make that like a rule or a law that says “Black people didn’t have to ride in the back of the bus anymore.” So maybe we just need more rules. As a little girl, eight, nine, 10 years old, I remember my dad telling me he had to drink out of another water fountain. He had to ride the back of the bus. That was the life my parents lived. Luckily it’s not the life my children live, but I don’t know that their experiences are any less traumatizing in their own way to them as well.
Lauren Maillian will be speaking at our Women & Worth Summit 2021: Actions Speak Louder Than Words, taking place March 2-4. You can register here or below.
Hiring with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) can help create a workforce and world that’s based on fairness and diversity.
Over the past couple of years, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) has been the talk of the town, particularly in the cybersecurity and technology communities. You’ve probably gotten at least one company email about diversity and inclusion, watched a TED talk or attended some type of training or presentation.
Between all the arguing taking place online and between talking heads on TV, the concepts of DEI have been both eye-opening and confusing to many people. Discussing disparities, statistics and next steps have left many people less certain than when they began. And being ignorant to — or overwhelmed by — information can result in the same inaction.
If we can identify and refocus on a few simple blindspots, we can keep moving forward and create a workforce and world that’s based on fairness and welcoming diversity.
1. Implicit Bias in the Hiring Process
When we think of inequality in hiring, we tend to think of some egregious act — like a storefront sign saying, “Not hiring *insert race/gender/religion.” The reality is that these transgressions are far more subtle. When thinking about discrimination on a conscious level, we’re still only painting a partial picture. Whether we’re well-intentioned or not, we may unknowingly hold on to biases that create barriers and roadblocks for others.
Something as simple as posting a job exclusively on LinkedIn, for instance, can unintentionally block well-qualified, diverse candidates. Assuming that LinkedIn is the only viable resource for professional candidates creates a confirmation bias that can significantly diminish your talent pool.
Posting on diversity-centric job boards not only expands your candidate pool, but also sends a message about your company’s culture before a candidate applies. Dyversifi, The Muse, Power to Fly are examples of excellent resources for diversity recruitment and are great ways to promote your company culture. And while implicit bias can extend well-beyond the hiring process, checking these biases at the door can help affect change and prevent future setbacks.
2. The Language in Your Job Descriptions
Inclusivity in the language of a job description is often overlooked — and it’s very important. The way we structure the language in a description can not only limit the applicant pool, but it can fortify bias and further contribute to a non-diverse workplace.
Language can discourage certain candidates from applying, by using loaded or gender-specific words like dominant, leader, competitive, and others. Resources like this free gender decoder for job descriptions can help highlight these word choices and offer more inclusive replacements and recommendations.
Without identifying and understanding these nuances, many hiring managers are unknowingly limiting the type of talent that’ll be interested in applying for their roles.
3. Diversity and Inclusion Is Not Just an HR or PR Problem
There’s a misconception that DEI is only important to human resources or public relations — meaning litigation and public appearance.
To be clear, this is a serious concern as roughly 70,000 workplace discrimination cases are filed per year and an average settlement totals to $40,000 — and we’ve seen countless brands go under due to some public disaster. But the conversation doesn’t stop there.
DEI is necessary across the entire workplace as the world continues to evolve and we become increasingly aware of the very real barriers that exist for so many today. Studies show that diverse environments are not only more innovative and successful, but also increase productivity while reducing attrition. In an industry like cybersecurity where the skills and talent gaps are continuously growing, innovation, productivity and retention are crucial to bridging these gaps.
These concepts can seem difficult and overwhelming at times — perhaps even frustrating — but with the right approach and mindset, we can all look for opportunities to introduce positive changes within the organizations we work with and represent.
Morgan Cameron is a recruiter at Huntress and is instrumental in ensuring the company’s core value of diversity plays an integral role in its hiring efforts. Recognizing a lack of diversity in the tech industry, Morgan has spent much of her career advocating for equity and recruitment for under-represented talent.
Morgan has led diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) workshops, conducted implicit bias trainings and developed company policies to promote diversity and equity. She’s also successfully implemented inclusive recruitment strategies and organized ERGs for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC associates. She is a true DEI advocate and firmly believes diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to a company’s success.
Leaders charged with growing diversity, equity and inclusion at three tech-driven organizations explain how they reached their current role and how they measure success.
Over the last year, technology companies have felt an increasing pressure from customers, employees and the public at large to finally get serious about diversity, equity and inclusion within our industry. One way organizations can follow through on these pledges is to hire leaders specifically charged with DEI efforts. More and more organizations are hiring DEI leaders in the aftermath of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, and the field is becoming an increasingly viable career path within the technology industry.
In interviews with DEI leaders at three technology-driven organizations, we learned that DEI leaders come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Virgin Orbit’s Monica Gangwar worked in finance and healthcare before moving to the satellite launch service but credits her volunteering background for steering her into her current field. Daphney Etienne, who manages diversity and inclusion programs for AI-driven marketing platform Persado, has worked in everything from business development to events and recruitment marketing. And Justin Reyes, who leads DEI at Major League Baseball — an increasingly tech-driven organization — worked in business analytics and finance before making the switch to his current career track.
So what have they learned from their career paths thus far? How do they measure success? What advice do they wish they’d received at the outset of their own career journeys? And how would they advise executives at companies with plenty of goodwill, but little know-how when it comes to building recruiting processes and cultural programs that place DEI front and center? Read on to see what these professionals had to say.
MONICA GANGWAR, SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER FOR EDI AND LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT AT VIRGIN ORBIT
Professional background: “What prepared me most for my current role was not my professional career, but the volunteer work I have done throughout my life. This gave me a perspective I don’t think I would have ever had in any of my roles in the different industries I’ve worked in. Giving back to your community opens you up to people who are different from you and gives you the opportunity to listen, learn and connect with a diverse demographic. My volunteer work taught me radical empathy and compassion which has carried over to my professional career, especially in my current role.”
Finding Your Own Path: “Unfortunately, when I was studying in undergrad, equity, diversity and inclusion wasn’t a major at the time and wasn’t something that I was encouraged to seek out because of my own experiences as the daughter of immigrants. At a young age I was curious about racism because although I had experienced it frequently, I couldn’t understand it. So I started researching and reading. Social media has been incredibly important in preparing me for my current role. Years ago, I was tired of seeing how mainstream media covered Black/African-American and immigrant stories, so I decided to follow activists, abolitionists and nonprofits that aligned with my views and content created by marginalized communities. I realized I could control some things, like how I used social media to learn and unlearn and how I connected to folx who are not like me, which was incredibly important in preparing me for my current role.”
“You are not here to be liked by everyone — if you are, you’re not doing your job right.”
How to measure success: “Some of the things we look at to gauge our success include hiring diversity at all levels, including the board; creating a diverse pipeline for promotions, including succession planning for upper management; and survey results to better understand core EDI questions. We also conduct reviews of our current EDI processes and look at the completion of trainings for executives and teammates. KPIs are important, but doing the right thing is what I am focused on. Some things cannot be measured through data but rather through people’s experiences and how they are treated and respected.”
Career advice: “Take responsibility for the failures. Even though it may not be in your control, you shouldn’t take credit for the good and not the bad. These are all learning experiences and you are not here to be liked by everyone — if you are, you’re not doing your job right. Have support within the company at all levels and from a diverse set of colleagues. Find an amazing mentor who is brilliant and authentic, who will always have your best interest in mind and be honest with you. Surround yourself with people who will help you walk away from the ledge instead of off the ledge — because you will find yourself on a ledge from time to time.
“Go to trainings created by Black and brown folx, read educational material by Black and brown folx. Use Google to learn and unlearn. It’s a free resource and there is so much information out there! Remember to use your critical thinking skills when researching and look for credible resources created by reputable people. Take EDI certification courses, keep developing and learning. You will never know everything and that is OK.
“You will make mistakes, own them. Rest, take time to step back and to remind yourself systemic racism wasn’t built in one day so it won’t be demolished in one day. Lastly, be authentic and vulnerable in the right moments.”
JUSTIN REYES, VP OF DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION AT MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Professional background: “I began my career in banking and have held roles across investment banking, business analytics and finance, before making a transition to diversity and inclusion 10 years ago.
“At first glance, it doesn’t seem to make sense — but I learned very early on that career success is not linear. I am not the sum total of responsibilities listed on my resume, but a combination of what I’ve learned, the skills I’ve developed along the way and what I value. Banking taught me how to work with large volumes of data, governance and compliance; investment banking taught me how large complex organizations operate in a fast-paced global environment; business analytics gave me insight into process and change management; finance helped me build my trust, communication and relationship management skills.
“I use these learnings — along with 20 years of D&I training and education, employee resource group leadership, nonprofit board service and practice and advocacy work — every day as a diversity practitioner.”
How to measure success: “I am responsible for the design and implementation of a multi-year DEI strategy, helping shape policy, practice and execution approaches across Major League Baseball. KPIs help me measure what gets managed, and they also help identify areas of risk or opportunity, key short- and long-term priorities as well as program effectiveness, accountability and impact.
“Having a background in analysis and reporting of budgetary capital has helped me take an objective look at the human capital programs that impact the representation, recruitment, development and engagement of diverse talent across the organization as well as how we engage fans and our communities.
“Right now, I’m keenly focused on our future. We’re growing in new ways, with technology at the forefront. This is a space that has been significantly underrepresented for women and people of color across industries for a very long time. I’m looking to assist our efforts to be a leader in sports and technology with the most diverse top talent leading the way.”
“Hire a capable and trained CDO — not just the most senior person in the organization that has a passion for the work — and make sure they report directly to the CEO.”
Attention execs: “The key to any successful DEI effort is leadership support and the ability for DEI to drive change throughout the organization. I’ve often said that diversity efforts succeed when the CEO values their CDO in the same way they value their CFO. Diversity efforts yield results when diversity has a seat and a voice at the decision-making table, when leadership values DEI accountability for their industry, and when systemic policies and practices are in place to drive equity. My advice is to hire a capable and trained CDO — not just the most senior person in the organization that has a passion for the work — and make sure they report directly to the CEO. Provide that CDO with the budget necessary to create real, sustainable impact. Organizations spend money on what they value, and that will, in turn, drive value back to the organization.”
DAPHNEY ETIENNE, MANAGER OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AT PERSADO
Professional background: “My professional background is in client services and marketing, and I’ve been lucky enough to work in a variety of functions, from business development to events and recruitment marketing. I think that background has helped in that I approach every companywide initiative with the mindset of servicing a client. In the case of D&I, that’s my internal colleagues and external prospective candidates. Additionally, I’ve recently received a certificate in DEI from Northwestern, which focuses on change management and leadership — two important aspects of DEI.”
How to measure success: “My role involves ensuring diversity is top of mind in our recruiting process, managing our ERGs and helping to foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. KPIs differ on responsibilities but include fostering engagement at ERG events, helping our recruiters ensure that our recruiting efforts are inclusive and ensuring a certain DEI-related score for our engagement surveys.”
“DEI is a field that tackles social issues, and though we’re doing the work in our individual organizations, I think it’s necessary to see what others are doing and contribute to the overall conversation.”
It takes an industry, not just a company: “I think it’s important to constantly be reading and following others in the space. DEI is a field that tackles social issues, and though we’re doing the work in our individual organizations, I think it’s necessary to see what others are doing and contribute to the overall conversation to further the goal of achieving an equitable and inclusive world, both in and outside of the workplace.”
Provides data for on-screen diversity and representation
Nielsen has created a new platform with the goal to better measure diversity and inclusion on TV—Gracenote Inclusion Analytics. The new platform is meant to provide content creators, owners, distributors and advertisers with data around on-screen diversity and representation, so as to enable more inclusive content.
According to a recent Nielsen report on diversity and inclusion, women make up 52% of the population but only 38% of top recurring cast in popular broadcast, cable and streaming programs. People of color, meanwhile, are 40% of the population but have just 27% of top TV roles.
“The entertainment industry has a massive challenge ahead—to ensure the talent associated with popular TV programming mirrors today’s increasingly diverse viewing audiences,” said Sandra Sims-Williams, senior vice president, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Nielsen. “By democratizing information around representation in content, Gracenote Inclusion Analytics holds the power to push the industry toward better balance and a more equitable future.”
Gracenote Inclusion Analytics combines Gracenote Global Video program metadata and Studio System celebrity race and ethnicity data with currency grade Nielsen Television Ratings and Nielsen SVOD Content Ratings data. Using these data points, the new system is meant to provide proprietary metrics assessing the degree to which different identity groups are featured in programming and how evenly this reflects viewing audiences.
The proprietary metrics are Share of Screen, which quantifies and identity group’s representation among top recurring talent; Inclusion Opportunity Index, which compares share of screen for an identity group to their representation in population estimates; and Inclusion Audience Index, comparing share of screen for a group to their representation in the program’s viewing audience.
This data can be used to help a distributor highlight and recommend certain programs, evaluate whether content meets Diversity, Equity and Inclusion benchmarks and highlight programs for licensing or advertising opportunities.
At launch, Gracenote Inclusion Analytics will provide data and insights around gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation of on-camera talent appearing in popular broadcast, cable and streaming programs. Future enhancements are expected to expand product coverage to include theatrical movies as well as behind-the-camera talent.
“Audiences today actively seek out programs that highlight people who resemble them and experiences that reflect their own,” said Tina Wilson, head of Analytics at Nielsen. “Under these circumstances, it’s critical that the entertainment industry create authentic content which resonates with underrepresented groups. Together, Nielsen and Gracenote are uniquely positioned to help the industry seize upon this opportunity by way of new data analytics solutions ensuring meaningful connections between content and audiences.”
Here’s how to make it happen, and why it’s so crucial to our common culture.
The United States is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, but mass media has often been slow to catch up in reflecting the way our country really looks. Unfortunately, advertising is no exception.
A study from NewsCred found that 91% of marketers agreed that there was still room for growth in showcasing diversity in their marketing materials. Plus, 88% of those surveyed felt that using more diversity in advertising images would help their brand’s reputation. So how can these same respondents, and your brand, put these aspirations into practice? Here’s a start.
In many ways, the need for diversity in advertising is a numbers game. Pew Research indicates that roughly 40% of the U.S. population is a racial or ethnic minority. Even more telling, the average age of those in minority groups tends to be much younger than that of non-Hispanic whites.
While the median age of non-Hispanic whites was 44, the median age was 31 for racial minorities, with Hispanics and multiracial individuals being the youngest overall. This means that in the coming years, the population will trend to being even more diverse than it currently is.
So why is advertising behind in this area? Part of the reason could be because 82.6% of those working in the industry are white. We have a natural tendency to produce content that reflects our known worlds. Unfortunately, this means that many advertisers are forgetting brands’ full target audiences — whether intentional or not.
As Warren Moss, CEO of Demographica, notes for Chief Marketer, “In order to reach and resonate with those diverse audiences, you need a diverse output. And that’s impossible if you don’t diversify the creative and strategic team that comes up with the campaign in the first place. It’s so simple really: Diversify the input to the creative process, and you get a different, completely unique and powerful output.”
Leaving out diversity in advertising may feel like a small oversight, but for those who are continually underrepresented, it can leave real feelings of hurt.
Writing for Salon, best-selling social commentator Roxane Gay says, “When advertisers ignore diversity, it is because they don’t think the lives of others matter. There is not enough of a financial imperative for those lives to matter. Though the past few years have brought progress, there is still work to be done. There are all kinds of people who continue to be largely ignored by advertisers, whose lives largely go unseen. They deserve their moment.”
This mindset was what drove Bereket Taffese, co-founder and CEO of Gebeya Media, to launch his Ethiopia-based animation and advertising studio. “We recognized quite quickly a lack of quality original African content on the big streaming platforms like Hulu and Netflix,” says Taffese. “Stories that reflect our culture simply weren’t being told or distributed. Yet Africa has a rich culture, full of stories and folktales. It causes people to feel neglected. On the other hand, when people see stories that reflect their values, traditions and culture, they feel valued and understood.”
Helping diverse audiences feel seen isn’t just a “feel-good” thing to give advertisers a reason to pat themselves on the back. It can play a direct result in brand outcomes.
The bottom line: Diversity matters to consumers. Research from Marketing Charts reveals that 62% of consumers feel like a brand’s diversity (or lack thereof) has a direct impact on how they perceive its products and services. In addition, close to four in 10 consumers are more likely to trust brands with diverse advertising, and 34% will actually stop using a brand because its advertising did not reflect their identity. These numbers were highest for African-Americans, where 53% reported taking this action.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, inclusive advertising content is likely to drive customers to do business with a brand. Research from Google found that 69% of Black consumers are more likely to buy from brands that positively reflect their racial identity in advertising.
As these responses show, diversity and inclusion is ultimately a win-win for advertisers, brands and their customers. When consumers are represented in advertising and other media, they feel that their experiences and opinions matter. They will respond positively with increased brand loyalty to those who accurately and authentically portray them in their content.
When advertising becomes more inclusive (hopefully in part because a more diverse group is working behind the scenes), a company will experience a meaningful impact on its bottom line.
Diversity and inclusion in advertising shouldn’t be acts of tokenism. They should be a natural reflection of our society as a whole. Advertisers need to consider their own unconscious biases and take meaningful steps to make campaigns for their clients more diverse. When diversity becomes second nature, advertising will ultimately be more authentic and deliver a far greater impact on a broader audience.
Prioritizing diversity and inclusion in collaboration technology can help companies maintain their cultural touchpoints — even during a pandemic.
Businesses were not prepared for the large-scale shift to work from home due to COVID-19, but as with any disruption, it comes with pros and cons. This trend has been underway for some time but mostly on a voluntary or exceptional basis. Not all lines of work can be remote, but where it has become the norm, hiring practices are being rethought.
The ground rules and expectations for employee performance have definitely changed, not just for the existing pool of workers who are now home-based, but for new hires as well. One of the biggest challenges facing businesses today is building and nurturing a culture that makes the organization more than just a collection of atomized employees.
Businesses are as competitive as ever, but in these pandemic times, other factors beyond the bottom line must also be considered. Many remote employees toil in less-than-ideal working conditions, while safety concerns around COVID-19 overshadow everything. At the same time, some businesses are just hanging on to survive, and the isolation of work from home presents mental health and wellness challenges.
Adding diversity and inclusion in technology to fill void
These are just a few of the stresses that didn’t rank as concerns prior to COVID-19. As a result, it’s no longer enough just to consider a person’s skill set for a job — regardless of whether the person is an existing employee or a new hire. Culture has a central role to play, and in 2021, that means diversity, inclusivity and being socially conscious.
To varying degrees, some of these goals are mandated by law, but culture and shared values cannot be legislated. Culture, for example, is the byproduct of organic human interaction. But working remotely presents a serious challenge to sustaining the workplace culture. This is where unified communications (UC) and collaboration platforms can help fill the void. While your organization’s culture cannot be totally replicated in a virtualized, distributed environment, these tools are a decent proxy, especially for supporting greater inclusivity. Let’s examine three ways collaboration platforms can help your company maintain its cultural identity.Businesses are as competitive as ever, but in these pandemic times, other factors beyond the bottom line must also be considered.
1. Greater accessibility
With work from home, physical barriers present at the office fall away. All that’s needed to be productive today is a PC, broadband connectivity and a good set of collaboration tools. This opens up the workforce to those who, because of physical or social challenges, might face accessibility barriers or not otherwise be as productive in a physical office environment.
2. Mitigating language barriers
Today’s digital economy is borderless, and with many businesses operating worldwide, their workforces have become global as well. This model can be supported effectively with branch offices. But, with work from home, businesses can scale further and faster, and that’s been the reality with COVID-19. Internet technologies are the key driver here, but collaboration platforms add another important layer.
First of all, workers not fully versed in your native language — but still able to follow along — can collaborate without needing deep conversation. Video combined with chat can work well, especially when using visual prompts, such as gestures. With the aid of AI and machine learning, UC platforms can help these workers learn and develop the language as they go, especially as real-time transcription and translation tools are added to the mix. When these newer diversity and inclusion in technology capabilities are adopted, language issues cease being a barrier to participation, thus enabling businesses to support a more globalized workforce.
3. Maintaining a respectful environment
The workplace has never been so demographically complex, and collaboration platforms can play a key role enabling and sustaining participation from everyone. Multigenerational workforces are now the norm, often spanning three or four age brackets, each of which communicates in its own fashion. Digital immigrants rely more on legacy applications, like telephony and email, while digital natives favor mobility, text and video. Without UC, this technology mishmash could become an unproductive Tower of Babel, but when these tools reside on a common platform, workers can seamlessly shift across modes and still respect differing communications preferences.
Demographic vectors other than age — among them gender, race and faith — are also becoming more diverse. The more harmonious a company’s culture and environment, the more productive its workers will be, and with diversity being a fact of life in 2021, this is not easy to do. As noted, policies to support diversity can be mandated to a point, but differences will not always be respected.
On one level, diversity and inclusion in technology platforms can keep things in check via informal channels and modes, such as short-form chat and emojis. Using these tools can enable people to push back safely when behaviors — unwittingly or not — start crossing lines. Furthermore, these digital modes are logged, providing a trail should these behaviors become more problematic and require a more formal response. Clearly, there are many sensitivities here that are beyond the scope of this tip. What is most important, however, is understanding that UC collaboration tools can be a form of self-regulation that will permit differences to be respected and enable employees to focus on the tasks at hand.
Nearly two years to the day after Starbucks shut down every single one of its 8,000 U.S. stores to give 175,000 employees a short course in racial-bias training in 2018, the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked a national wave of protests against racial injustice.
In its wake there was an outpouring of support in the form of corporate declarations from Apple’s Tim Cook tweeting that “justice is how we heal,” to the proliferation of Black Lives Matter social media posts. Some critics dismissed the statements as “performative allyship,” but many companies did start to make changes within their workforce in an effort to be antiracist and support their employees who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
Amber Cabral, a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant and founder of her own firm Cabral Co, observes that companies that have already invested significantly in these initiatives will move away from formalized training, and towards more behavior and results-driven actions.
“We’ll begin to see inclusivity showing up in the workplace in more impactful ways, for example, on performance appraisals tied to bonuses and compensation. Look for diversity and inclusion numbers to show up on annual reports that detail company spending and donation reports that tell the story of each company’s commitment to social responsibility.”
However, the concept of unconscious bias training is still part of the foundational effort many organizations made in 2020. They began by appointing DEI practitioners to lead the charge. Hiring for all levels of diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals increased more than 90% over last year, according to LinkedIn data.
Despite the recent surge in interest, unconscious bias and diversity training dates back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Here’s a brief timeline of what got us to the diversity and inclusion initiatives we have in the workplace today.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that made discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin illegal for employers with more than 15 employees to discriminate in hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.
Supplements to the law prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, age, and disability. Sexual harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation are both also now illegal under Title VII.
A number of discrimination suits were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. If the EEOC or state agencies found “probable cause” for discrimination, one thing they’d often require was that the organization train all employees in anti-discriminatory behavior.
COMPANIES TAKE ACTION
Leadership watching these filings and court-mandated training tried to be proactive to avoid expensive lawsuits and the potential for negative publicity that would accompany a ruling, so they took it on themselves to train managers and employees.
According to a paper on the history of diversity training by Rohini Anand and Mary-Frances Winters, most training at this time was “primarily the imparting of knowledge with recitations on the law and company policies, a litany of dos and don’ts, and maybe a couple of case studies for the participants to ponder.” They say that those sessions varied from one hour to a full day, and it could often be a one-and-done event. “Many still require brief periodic refreshers of company policies and signatures from every employee to acknowledge that they had read and understood the policies and the consequences of noncompliance,” they add.
THE REAGAN ERA CHANGES FOCUS
After the initial period that saw a significant uptick in racial and gender diversity in the workplace, things stalled out in the early 1980s. This came alongside less focus on compliance at the hands of President Ronald Reagan’s deregulation policies, which contended that “intensive, fine-grained regulation of business led firms to opt out of compliance altogether. Goals, such as . . . reduced discrimination would be elusive under intense regulation.”
What’s more, Reagan appointed Clarence Thomas to lead the EEOC, and Thomas was not a fan of agreements that included goals and timetables for increasing representation of underrepresented groups, but rather allowed employers to have more leeway. The result was less of a push to diversify, and training became a line item to reduce as part of cost-cutting efforts in an era when offshore competition heated up.
At this point, those companies that continued to push diversity training shifted their strategy, Winters and Anand write. They aimed to provide content that would help women and people of color assimilate into existing corporate cultures, Winters and Anand say, “based on the assumption that these new corporate entrants were less prepared because they had not yet developed the necessary managerial skills to be effective managers.”
In 1987, a book called Workforce 2000 came out, and among its predictions was that our future labor force would include more women and underrepresented minorities. As such, many experts use this publication as the impetus for creating and making a business case for the diversity training industry.
The late Roosevelt Thomas Jr., former executive director of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, upended the perceptions that affirmative action and compliance training could solve diversity problems at homogenous companies in an article for Harvard Business Review in 1990. In it, he suggested a 10-point plan for shifting corporate culture to be more inclusive, above and beyond what a single diversity training could achieve. What’s more, he tied it to business success. He wrote:
There is a simple test to help you spot the diversity programs that are going to eat up enormous quantities of time and effort. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is the same test you might use to identify the programs and policies that created your problem in the first place. The test consists of one question: Does this program, policy, or principle give special consideration to one group? Will it contribute to everyone’s success, or will it only produce an advantage for blacks or whites or women or men? Is it designed for them as opposed to us? Whenever the answer is yes, you’re not yet on the road to managing diversity.
BECOMING CULTURALLY SENSITIVE
After Roosevelt’s paradigm became more widely known in the 1990s, companies embarked on training that ranged from social justice to awareness and appreciation of differences, and even work-life balance, sexual orientation, age, and disabilities. Winters and Anand write that there was a backlash from white men, which led to a historic Supreme Court case of Allan Bakke who alleged he was twice denied admission for medical school because of “reverse discrimination.” (He was granted admission, but the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action.)
It also led to including the controversial “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” exercise in companies’ unconscious bias training. It was originally conceived by Jane Elliot, an Iowa public school teacher, after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In it, students were grouped by the color of their eyes and told that the blue-eyed group was superior and should get better treatment. The result was better performance from those with blue eyes.
Although this remains a powerful exercise, ultimately, they write, diversity training became a “check-off-the-box item evaluated not by its effectiveness, but rather by the number of people who were trained.”
Training continued to evolve in the new millennium. Anand and Winters write that contemporary approaches position diversity as a competency. “The assumption is no longer that only certain groups need training (e.g., white men or minorities), but rather that all employees need to be more cross-culturally competent in an increasingly global world,” they write. “It is just as important for an African-American male to learn more about his Chinese coworker or vice versa.”
Unfortunately, given the continued underrepresentation of women and minorities in most businesses as well as the continued harassment and discrimination of underrepresented groups, diversity training and inclusion initiatives still have a place in our corporate culture today.