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  • Writer's pictureAtul Prashar

The current state of diversity and inclusion in media

When it comes to the topic of diversity and inclusion, talk has been plentiful recently... especially about what this topic means for representation within the media industry. Just last month, Warner Media released their first diversity and inclusion interim report covering its 2018 corporate operations as well as the various forms of content created by its properties. The good news is that workforce and production staffing at Warner Media is close to gender parity with a 54% to 46% male to female split in the global workplace (industry agnostic global benchmark 51.5% to 48.5% male to female) and 53% to 47% male to female split in the U.S. (in line with industry-agnostic splits of the entire U.S. labor force). Also encouraging is that these upward trends include new hires and promotions to VP level and above at one of the world’s largest media companies. However, there is still significant room for improvement in the area of diverse representation in the content being produced. Perhaps that just means there is a lag between behind-the-scenes diversity translating to content diversity which is understandable, but improved overall transparency with regards to diversity and inclusion is a definite step in the right direction.

Comcast NBCUniversal has made a tremendous effort to hire and promote people of color, 40% of its Board of Directors are Women or People of Color. When looking at NBC news, MSNBC & CNBC On-Air talent, the landscape is 48% Women and 32% People of Color. View a short video of their work here. Our portfolio company, Sava360 Ventures, is proud to have partnered with Comcast NBCUniversal since 2016, for four diversity focused Startup Showcases taking place during the annual NAMIC National conference. NAMIC Inc., CEO, Shuanise Washington, and Comcast Diversity & Inclusion, Senior SVP and Chief Diversity Officer, David L. Cohen, are keen to showcase diverse startup founders with innovative ideas impacting the media and communications landscape. Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund has supported 80+ Diverse Startups since its launch in 2011.

These are tremendous holistic steps in the right direction by these media conglomerates, but what else can we do to help push the needle? Pay attention to the following areas and look out for more diverse content to follow.

Top down diversity Diversity and inclusion can't be solely a hiring and recruiting initiative. There also has to be a concerted effort to have representation at the board and senior levels within organizations because they are still the key decision makers driving what type of content gets produced and marketed. So yes, more diverse staffing is important, but making sure that high performers are moving to the top is also key.    Mentorship matters So how do these high performers rise to the top?  That's where having mentors helps tremendously. For there to be continuity of diversity and inclusion within organizations, there should also be mentoring - formally or informally - within to help guide younger employees in their career paths and encourage and advocate for new ideas because that also means fresh content which will also help attract a younger (and fresher) audience.

Stay true to transparency Just like shareholders love to see regular reports of growing revenue and profitability, keeping track and measuring diversity and inclusion numbers consistently over time is the only way to keep everyone accountable and aware of what is and is not working. And so if we begin to see growing audiences for content with more diverse representation and storytelling, then that will only prove that this is what the audience wants which will continue to help drive even more diversity and inclusivity all around.

Like anything else worth fighting for, all of this will take time. Just ask Kal Penn who is now starring in his own NBC sitcom, Sunnyside, which has been years in the making and proudly features a diverse ensemble cast in addition to Penn. In a recent Deadline article that we highlighted in our Sava360 blog, Penn advocates for diverse and savvy content that he believes is what the audience wants now. “They don’t just want something that’s, "oh, this is diversity and we’re checking the box. They want compelling characters that are reflective of the world that we live in, and the people that we know,” Penn says. The following are just a few samples proving audience crave diverse content:

  • 2008 release, Slum Dog Millionaire, worldwide gross ~$378M ($141M domestic, production budget $15M, pre-marketing return 25x).

  • 2018 release, Crazy Rich Asians worldwide gross ~$240M ($175M domestic, production budget $30M, pre marketing return 8x), highest grossing romantic comedy of the last 10 years, and 6th highest ever.

  • 2018 release, Black Panther, worldwide gross ~$1.3B (>$700M domestic, production budget $200M,pre marketing return 6.5x)

We love seeing characters we can personally identify with on screen, and can't wait to see even more! "Top 1000 companies in the US, 25% C Suite positions filled by women", with only 6% CEO positions filled by women.

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