The recent shake-ups in Hollywood’s leadership have raised concerns about the impact of its diversity initiatives. In the past couple of weeks, several high-profile Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) executives have either resigned or been removed from their positions at top entertainment and media companies. People are now questioning whether these departures signify a genuine commitment to change or merely symbolic roles.
One of the notable departures is Latondra Newton, Disney’s chief diversity officer, who announced her exit on June 20. Newton led Disney’s DEI efforts since 2017 and introduced initiatives like implementing more gender-neutral language across Disney Parks. While she is leaving to focus on her own business, Disney is actively searching for her replacement.
Another significant departure is Vernā Myers, Netflix’s inclusion strategy chief, who recently announced her resignation after serving in the role for five years. Myers, who identifies as a “DEI expert,” will step down in September but will continue to advise the company.
Other departures include Janelle English from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Karen Horne from Warner Bros. Discovery due to company-wide restructuring, and Joanna Abeyie, the BBC’s creative diversity chief, who has returned to her consultancy business.
This succession of departures has raised attention on social media, particularly due to the fact that all the departing executives are Black women. Seneca Scott, founder and CEO of Neighbors Together Oakland, criticized the effectiveness of DEI roles, claiming they often fall short by neglecting crucial elements like mentorship and opportunities that have a meaningful impact on employees.
Kim Crayton, known as the “Antiracist Economist,” echoed the sentiment, referring to many DEI roles as performative and dispensable. Comedian and political satirist Tim Young went as far as saying that the high turnover indicates the “complete failure” of DEI programs, suggesting that these initiatives have become burdensome for companies struggling with declining sales.
Despite these criticisms, Young believes that Hollywood will continue to exist in its ideological bubble and only acknowledge the ineffectiveness of its DEI strategies when faced with significant financial losses. It’s worth noting that DEI roles are facing scrutiny not only in Hollywood but also in Corporate America. The increasing focus on the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) movement, which promotes social justice and environmentally-friendly practices, has also encountered backlash, suggesting a possible waning of attention towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
However, these leadership changes can have broader implications, as evident in a recent Supreme Court ruling that invalidated affirmative action in college admissions. The ruling concluded that the practice discriminated against Asian students while favoring Black and Hispanic students. This decision could potentially hold businesses accountable for their DEI practices in the future.
In light of these developments, it becomes crucial to examine whether the changes in Hollywood’s leadership signify progress in diversity or are merely empty gestures.