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Monday, Dec 5, 2022

One Year Later, LA Companies Make Progress on Diversity

In the wake of social justice protests last summer sparked by the murder of George Floyd, many businesses pledged to step up their efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion.

One year later, it appears those initial words of promise have been followed by actions from many companies in Los Angeles.

Santa Monica-based Snap Inc., Burbank-based Walt Disney Co., El Segundo-based Mattel Inc. and Torrance-based American Honda Motor Co. Inc. are among those that have delivered tangible results.

Companies have taken steps to change their hiring practices and diversify their products. They’ve also donated to communities of color, and some have released reports designed to show accountability for their diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

“We have incorporated DEI into every thing we do, so it is a core part of everyone’s responsibility,” Shijuade Kadree, director of diversity strategy for Snap, said in an email. “As a result, DEI is at the forefront of our daily jobs and our business, which has contributed to making progress on our DEI goals.”

In the entertainment industry, the #ChangeHollywood roadmap launched in June 2020 by Oakland-based nonprofit civil rights organization Color of Change has helped businesses navigate a rapidly evolving landscape.  

Color of Change Hollywood, in partnership with actor Michael B. Jordan, calls for companies to divest from the police, invest in anti-racist content, support Black talent and careers, and provide aid to Black communities.

The roadmap also suggests hiring Black executives and consultants, as well as hiring Black-owned businesses for contract work.

“We were seeing all the companies post these statements of ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and we’re seeing that people want action,” said Kristen Marston, culture and entertainment advocacy director at Color of Change Hollywood. “We decided to answer that call … to provide entertainment professionals with the resources to actually make tangible change.”

Companies providing funding for DEI efforts include Beverly Hills-based Endeavor Group Holdings Inc., which committed to donating $5 million to community organizations over the next three years. Endeavor also said it plans to recruit more diverse employees and disclose its staff demographics.

Disney also pledged $5 million to social justice-related nonprofit organizations around the country and launched a companywide initiative focused on improving transparency, representation and accountability within its content, community and company culture.

In addition, Disney established a Diversity and Inclusion Council and a Creative Inclusion Council.

“It is critical that we stand together, speak out and do everything in our power to ensure that acts of racism and violence are never tolerated,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, said last June when the company announced the initiatives.

In May, Disney also established the Onyx Collective, a content brand dedicated to Black creators.

According to Disney’s 13th annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report released in February, about 46% of Disney’s U.S. employees identified as people of color in 2020, up from 44% the year before. Women represented 51% of the company’s global employees, down from 52% in 2019. Four out of 10 members of Disney’s board are women, and three of 10 are racially or ethnically diverse, the report said.

In April, Snap released a report detailing the company’s demographics. It said underrepresented groups made up 13.6% of Snap’s U.S. leadership roles in 2020, up from 13.1% in 2019. Black representation increased from 4.1% to 4.9%, and Black employees made up 9.3% of new hires, compared to 5.7% the previous year.

But Snap also pointed out that Latino representation at the company dipped from 6.9% to 6.8%, and Asian representation in leadership dropped from 16.5% to 14.3.%. Snap said this was due to the unanticipated speed of the company’s growth.

“Moving forward, we will set representation goals that better index for our future growth and recognize the importance of increasing diversity at all career stages,” Snap said in the report.

Leadership development program

Snap plans to double the number of employees that are part of underrepresented racial groups at the company by 2025.
Snap executive Kadree said in an email that her company has made investments in a leadership development program for groups that are “currently least reflected in leadership.”

“We know that some of these changes will be felt immediately, and some will take time to take root,” Kadree added.

Snap also committed to redesigning its algorithms to remove unconscious bias and be more inclusive.

Los Gatos-based streaming giant Netflix Inc., which has several offices in Los Angeles, released its first “Inclusion Takes Root at Netflix” report in January. The report said 46.4% of its U.S. workforce and 42% of its leadership staff are from “underrepresented racial and/or ethnic backgrounds” as of 2020.

The number of Black employees at Netflix doubled in the past three years, making up 8% of its workforce and 9% of leadership roles, the company said.

The report detailed Netflix’s goals to hire more inclusively by creating access for emerging talent and partnering with nonprofit organizations and professional associations. In the past year, Netflix’s inclusion team has also held “inclusion talks” on several topics, including inclusive language, privilege, bias and intersectionality, a company representative said in an email.

On June 3, Mattel disclosed in an update on its diversity and inclusion goals from last year that “ethnically diverse employees” accounted for 42% of its staff, 43% of its promotions and 46% of all new hires in the past year.

Amy Thompson, executive vice president and chief people officer at Mattel, said in an email that this was achieved through strengthening relationships with schools, networks and organizations, and leveraging employee resource groups to retain diverse talent.

Mattel said it had achieved 100% pay equity globally for employees performing similar work. The company also diversified its product offerings, including making an LGBT pride-themed UNO deck and the “gender inclusive doll line” Creatable World, Thompson said in an email.

“At Mattel, our purpose is to empower the next generation to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential,” Thompson said. “And we are similarly committed to cultivating a work environment that promotes equality, inclusion and empowerment.”

Making updates

American Honda also released an update on diversity and inclusion efforts. The company said it enhanced its focus on diverse candidate slates, standardized the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day companywide and updated its social media policy in North America to take action against racist and discriminatory content.
Yvette Hunsicker, vice president of corporate social responsibility and the office of inclusion and diversity for Honda, said in an email that the company provided $325,000 for historically Black colleges and universities to serve communities that were hit hard by the pandemic.

The company also boycotted Facebook Inc., removing advertising between July and November to take a stand against “hate speech and racism” on the platform, Hunsicker said.  

As of September, Honda’s total U.S. workforce was comprised of 26% women and 27% ethnic minorities, Hunsicker said.

“All Honda associates and business partners are expected to embrace and actively support diversity and the enrichment and advantages that it provides,” Hunsicker said.

Video-sharing app TikTok, which has offices in Culver City, came under fire in late May 2020 after posts tagged with #BlackLivesMattter and #GeorgeFloyd appeared to have zero views, which the company blamed on a “technical glitch,” in a statement last June.

Soon after, TikTok started the Creator Diversity Collective to ensure diversity and equity on the platform and committed to fixing its algorithm. The company also launched “TikTok for Black Creatives” in January to support emerging artists on the platform.

No Quick Fixes for Diversity, Experts Say

While many companies have enthusiastically embraced efforts to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces, they often don’t realize that lasting change is a lengthy process.
That’s why programs run by Cheryl Ingram, founder of Diverse City, a Sawtelle-based diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm, start at a minimum of three months.

Ingram primarily works with small- to mid-sized companies in the technology and wealth management industries, and she counts Netflix Inc., San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. and the University of Washington among her former clients.

Though Ingram has seen a spike in interest over the past year, some companies she’s worked with stopped mid-engagement because they were unaware of how much work it would be to take accountability for the company’s past actions.

“A lot of people are wanting to invest in DEI, and they want the consulting work, but once we really get into the thick of it, they’re not always prepared for how hard it’s really going to be,” Ingram said.

Diversity and inclusion work is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, according to Reena Hajat Carroll, executive director of the Long Beach-based California Conference for Equality and Justice.

Carroll, who has seen a surge in interest from companies in the past year, said that before taking on a new business as a client, CCEJ looks into the company’s goals to make sure it’s a good fit.

She said that in the past year, she’s worked on a long-term basis with major companies such as Long Beach-based Zwift Inc., New York-based Warner Music Group and Ralphs Grocery Co.

“Everyone is just scrambling to figure out what their DEI strategy is and how to do this work meaningfully and with impact,” Carroll said. “This is where companies have a great opportunity to dive into the work with authenticity and to be honest about what they don’t know.” 



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