Major Media Companies Lose 4 Black Diversity Leaders – A Step Backwards?
The media industry has lost Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leaders over the last two weeks with layoffs and resignations at Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Who Has Gone?
After more than six years, Disney’s chief diversity officer Latondra Newton was the first to exit her role.
She oversaw the company’s “commitment to producing entertainment that reflects a global audience and sustains a welcoming and inclusive workplace for everyone.”
Disney said she was leaving to pursue “other endeavors.”
Netflix’s first-ever head of inclusion strategy Verna Myers was next to announce she will step down from her role in September after five years.
Myers launched several strategic interventions and built awareness across the company alongside creating a curriculum for Netflix that has seen more than 600 execs globally participate in small group workshops on leading inclusively.
The day after the Supreme Court struck down Affirmative Action in education, there was a double departure with Warner Bros. Discovery firstly removing diversity, equity, and inclusion officer Karen Horne.
Warner Bros claimed it was not a result of cost-cutting measures but due to the division’s reorganization.
The Academy is also parting ways with EVP of Impact and Inclusion Officer Jeanell English as she resigned from her role a year after beginning in the position.
While there, she led the organization’s initiatives to address underrepresentation across the industry and oversaw its talent development programs.
People have gone to Twitter to call out the recent news; one user said, “Interesting enough, they stopped caring about diversity after the hype of it died down.”
Others have noted the timing of the announcements: “Not to put too fine a point on it, but all of them being Black women, and all of this happening during the WGA strike and leading up to a possible SAG strike, is very telling.”
An Increase In DEI Layoffs
Roles for DEI first spiked during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, with tech companies, in particular, pledging to boost their diversity efforts.
However, the number of companies without DEI programs has increased from 15% in 2020 to 20% in 2022, with an overall 18% decrease in leaders’ endorsement of their company’s overall DEI effects.
DDI’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report found that women and minority leaders are significantly more likely to leave their companies to advance in the workplace and are especially susceptible to burnout caused by professional anxieties.
Additionally, at TheWrap’s Power Women’s Summit in December last year, Amazon Studios Head of Global DEI Latasha Gillespie said the industry might be experiencing what she termed “diversity fatigue,” a term that relates to feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and sometimes skepticism around driving more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplaces.