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‘The Power of Stories,’ WarnerMedia rethinks Equity & Inclusion

The focus for Warner’s review was entirely on the diverse nature of the workforce spread out amongst its brand components

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Graphic courtesy of WarnerMedia

NEW YORK – The last two years have brought significant changes to American corporate culture, particularly by way of treatment of the workforce.

Fostered in a societal climate influenced by the global coronavirus pandemic and accentuated by social unrest over the deaths of Black people at the hands of law enforcement and the Black Lives Matter movement which resulted from those deaths, many businesses found themselves struggling to best serve underrepresented minorities within the ranks of their employees.

Perhaps the most impacted firms in corporate America were the media conglomerates of which the top four, Comcast, the Walt Disney Company, AT&T/WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS, found themselves rethinking their strategy.

In October one of the four, WarnerMedia, released its findings from the company’s 2020/21 Equity and Inclusion (E&I) report, The Power of Stories. The focus for Warner’s review was entirely on the diverse nature of the workforce spread out amongst its brand components of Cartoon Network, CNN, DC, HBO, HBO MAX, TNT and Warner Bros. Television and Pictures.

Courtesy of WarnerMedia

The company looked at how it as a employer, but more-so how its employees navigated significant moments in 2020-2021 and did so by using  personal stories and accounts as the basis for the report’s foundational structure that highlights equity and inclusion across four areas at WarnerMedia:

Workforce (including workforce composition and business resource groups for employees)

Content (including scripted TV, films, news, and animation)

Programs (including creative development and pipeline programs)

Community (including industry and local outreach partnerships and initiatives).

  • Workforce Global Gender analysis shows 54% of the workforce are men and 46% women.
  • U.S. Ethnicity and Race analysis shows a workforce that is 58% White, 12% Asian American 12% Black, 11% Hispanic/Latinx, 3% two or more races, 0.3% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, 0.1% Native American/Native Alaskan and 3% declined to state.    
  • WarnerMedia U.S.-based Scripted Shows On-Screen Representation: 36% women, up 2% from 2019. 29% people of color, up 5% from 2019. 
  • Warner Bros. Pictures’ On-Screen Representation: 30% women, down 4% from 2019. 29% people of color, up 5% from 2019. 
  • WarnerMedia U.S.-based Scripted Shows Behind-the-Camera Representation: 28% women, up 5% from 2019. 29% people of color, up 6% from 2019.
  • Warner Bros.’ Pictures’ Behind-the-Camera Representation: 27% women, up 4% from 2019. 27% people of color, up 4% from 2019.
  • Animation: 54% of animated protagonists in development at Cartoon Network are female and 52% of lead characters in development at Warner Bros. Animation are female.

With emphasis on contextualizing the experiences of its workforce, WarnerMedia across all brands examined itself with a workforce that also included the LGBTQ+ community and the uniqueness of the experiences of those employees.

“I firmly believe that talent is distributed equally in the world we live in today, but opportunity is not always evenly distributed,” said Christy Haubegger, EVP, Communications and Chief Inclusion Officer at WarnerMedia.

“That is why we have an Equity & Inclusion strategy that has been put into place to open those opportunities — across our workforce, our content, our pipeline programs, and the work we do within our communities. It is not about random acts of diversity. It’s about ongoing, measured and systemic change if we are going to achieve true equity for everyone.”

Water tower lit purple for Spirit Day,
Warner Bros. Studios Burbank

The company laid out its goals:

An action plan:
To ensure equity and inclusion are core to our business priorities, we shared the tenets of our strategy.

Transparency
We want our leadership team to reflect the talent of our community, so we’re sharing the
metrics of our race and ethnicity. This will hold us accountable as we focus on recruiting, hiring, development and retention.

Measurement
We know that what gets measured gets done, so our diversity numbers are included in the leadership team’s weekly operational report, along with financial and other
essential business metrics.

Pay
We’re making adjustments to ensure that people who are doing the same job, with the same level of experience, skills and performance are not paid differently.

Accountability
We’ll be adjusting our internal performance management process
to include how we perform on inclusion initiatives.

Development
We’re building our own talent development programs focused
on increasing visibility, access and opportunities for underrepresented
groups at all levels of the company.

Storytelling
The stories we tell, and who gets to tell them, matters. We’re making
changes to ensure that we have creators and stories that reflect the breadth of our global audiences.

Training and education
The education we all need to unravel a century’s history in our
industry is immense, so we are expanding our inclusion learning
and development work.

“Effectuating inclusion for any identity group, particularly those who’ve been historically marginalized and ignored, requires a restructuring  of systems that were, in many cases, designed to  perpetuate inequality. We must be intentional in our efforts to be better and understand that social impact work is quickly becoming an expected and essential element of doing business. Failing to understand the nuances of identity and experiences is simply not an option for any business that intends  to engage with diverse employees and consumers,” Dennis Williams, SVP, Corporate Social Responsibility, WarnerMedia told the Blade.

“Not only do we get to work on this, but we get to work on this at scale. We are a missionary team of nearly 30,000 team members… inspired, passionate and, of course, with the potential to do far more. And that is a good thing given there is so much more to do. These were important steps towards making WarnerMedia more equitable and inclusive. And yet we all acknowledge that the bulk of the work is still in front of us,” said Jason Kilar, CEO at WarnerMedia.

What if you
don’t know how to have tough
conversations?

Jim Cummings EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer

“But just because there’s a willingness to talk about systemic issues like racism doesn’t mean
that everyone can do it easily, or comfortably or constructively. It can be really daunting to have conversations with Black colleagues about race when you are white. Or conversations about the experiences women have when you’re male, or the LGBTQ+ experience if you’re straight.

Real inclusivity, real diversity means everyone. So we asked the Equity and Inclusion team to create an expert-led program that not only gives people the tools and language to have those conversations, but also a space in which to be clumsy, to ask difficult questions,” Jim Cummings the EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer noted in the report.

One WarnerMedia source told the Blade that even having these conversations and a report laying out the type of ambitious plan for real equity and inclusiveness for the company’s employees is a solid goal- but there needs to be follow though and meaningful dialogue.

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Research/Study

New study on resilience & mental health among LGBTQ youth

LGBTQ youth with high resilience had 59% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt- 69% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project observing the 53rd anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn that sparked a greater movement for LGBTQ+ rights and equality this week, released new data that examines resilience and mental health among LGBTQ youth.

“As we celebrate Pride Month and commemorate the Stonewall Riots, there is often discussion of the ‘resilience’ of the LGBTQ community and the ways in which members are able to bounce back in the face of adversity. These data highlight the fact that resilience is not just an admirable quality – but one that can be associated with improved mental health among LGBTQ youth,” said Dr. Jonah DeChants, Research Scientist at The Trevor Project.

“Higher resilience in our sample was consistently associated with better mental health outcomes including decreased risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts in the past year among LGBTQ youth. Moving forward, we should invest further research into understanding how LGBTQ youth can successfully develop high resilience. Additionally, we should work to dismantle systems of oppression and implement LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination protections  so that LGBTQ youth are not required to possess resilience to excel and thrive.” 

Key Findings:

  • LGBTQ youth with high resilience had 59% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt, and 69% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth with high resilience reported 81% lower odds  of anxiety symptoms, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth with  high resilience reported 79% lower odds of recent depression, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth who have supportive families and  are in supportive environments have higher resilience.
  • LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 24 reported significantly higher resilience than LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 17. 

Read the report:

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Research/Study

150 people on Tennessee’s sex offender registry for HIV-related conviction

Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – At least 154 people have been placed on Tennessee’s sex offender registry (SOR) for an HIV-related conviction since 1993, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Enforcement of HIV crimes in Tennessee disproportionately affects women and Black people. Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black.

Tennessee’s two primary HIV criminalization laws—aggravated prostitution and criminal exposure—make it a felony for people living with HIV to engage in sex work or other activities, such as intimate contact, blood donation, or needle exchange, without disclosing their status. Both are considered a “violent sexual offense” and require a person convicted to register as a sex offender for life.

Examining Tennessee’s sex offender registry, researchers found that Shelby County, home to Memphis, accounts for most of the state’s HIV convictions. Shelby County makes up only 13% of Tennessee’s population and 37% of the population of people living with HIV in the state, but 64% of HIV registrants on the SOR. Moreover, while Black Tennesseans were only 17% of the state’s population and 56% of people living with HIV in the state, 75% of all HIV registrants were Black.

In Shelby County, 91% of aggravated prostitution convictions resulted from police sting operations in which no physical contact ever occurred. In addition, the case files showed that 75% of those convicted were Black women. When it came to criminal exposure case files, all of those convicted except one person were Black men.

“Tennessee’s HIV criminal laws were enacted at a time when little was known about HIV and before modern medical advances were available to treat and prevent HIV,” said lead author Nathan Cisneros, HIV Criminalization Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Tennessee’s outdated laws do not require actual transmission or the intent to transmit HIV. Moreover, the laws ignore whether the person living with HIV is in treatment and virally suppressed and therefore cannot transmit HIV.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • Incarcerating people for HIV-related offenses has cost Tennessee at least $3.8 million.
  • Of the 154 people who have been placed on Tennessee’s SOR for an HIV-related conviction, 51% were convicted of aggravated prostitution, 46% were convicted of criminal exposure, and 3% were convicted of both.
  • Women account for 26% of people living with HIV in Tennessee and 4% of people on the SOR, but 46% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black people account for 17% of people living in Tennessee, 56% of those living with HIV, 27% of people on the SOR, but 75% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black women were the majority of aggravated prostitution registrants (57%), while Black men were the majority of criminal exposure registrants (64%).
  • People with an HIV-related offense are more economically vulnerable when compared to others on the state’s SOR.
    • One in five (19%) HIV registrants were homeless compared to 9% of all SOR registrants.
    • 28% of HIV registrants reported an employer address compared to about half (49%) of all SOR registrants.
  • Shelby County has one aggravated prostitution conviction for every 115 people living with HIV in the county, and Black people were 90% of all people convicted for aggravated prostitution.
    • Over 90% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County were the result of police sting operations.
    • Only 3% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County alleged any intimate contact.
    • Nearly all (95%) people arrested in Shelby County for criminal exposure were Black men, compared to 64% of people statewide.  

The Williams Institute has conducted research on HIV criminalization in numerous U.S. states.

Read the report

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Research/Study

New Pew Research Center poll: Americans at odds over Trans issues 

Strong majorities favor non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors

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Texas trans activist Landon Richie speaking at Texas Capitol against trans youth sports bill (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – A new survey from a leading non-partisan research center reveals Americans have mixed views on transgender issues at a time when states are moving forward with measures against transgender youth, with strong majorities favoring non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors and participation in school sports.

The Pew Research Center issued the findings on Tuesday as part of the results of its ongoing study to better understand Americans’ views about gender identity and people who are transgender or non-binary. The findings are based on a survey of 10,188 U.S. adults from data collected as part of a larger survey conducted May 16-22.

A majority of respondents by wide margins favor non-discrimination protections for transgender people. A full 64 percent back laws or policies that would protect transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public spaces, while roughly 8-in-10 acknowledge transgender people face at least some discrimination in our society.

Additionally, nearly one half of Americans say it’s extremely important to use a transgender person’s new name after they undergo a transition, while an additional 22 percent say that is somewhat important. A smaller percentage, 34 percent, say using a transgender person’s pronouns is extremely important, and 21 percent say it is somewhat important.

But other findings were less supportive:

  • 60 percent say a person’s gender is determined by sex assigned at birth, reflecting an increase from 56 percent in 2021 and 54 percent in 2017, compared to 38 percent who say gender can be different from sex assigned at birth.
  • 54 percent say society has either gone too far or been about right in terms of acceptance, underscoring an ambivalence around transgender issues even among those who see at least some discrimination against transgender people.
  • About six-in-ten adults, or 58 precent, favor proposals that would require transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth as opposed to teams consistent with their gender identity, compared to 17 percent who oppose that and 24 percent neither favor nor oppose it.
  • 46 percent favor making it illegal for health care professionals to provide transition-related care, such as hormones or gender reassignment surgery, to someone younger than 18, compared to 31 percent who oppose it.
  • Americans are more evenly split when it comes to making it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools (which is favored by 41 percent, and opposed by 38 percent) and investigating parents for child abuse if they help someone younger than 18 obtain transition-related care (37 percent are in favor and 36 percent oppose it).

Young adults took the lead in terms of supporting change and acceptance. Half of adults ages 18 to 29 say someone can be a man or a woman even if that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, compared to about four-in-10 of those ages 30 to 49 and about one-third of respondents 50 and older.

Predictably, stark differences could be found along party lines. Democrats by 59 precent say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender, while 15 percent say it has gone too far and 24 percent say it’s been about right. For Republicans, 10 percent say society hasn’t gone far enough, while 66 percent say it’s gone too far and 22 percent say it’s been about right.

Read the full report here.

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