Time’s Up Entertainment, an affiliate of the Time’s Up coalition of women across industries working to improve workplace safety, has announced the “Who’s in the Room” industry mentoring initiative. The program’s goal is to increase the presence of people of color from diverse backgrounds in the entertainment industry’s executive ranks.
Funded by a $500,000 grant from CBS, “Who’s in the Room” will target the two most problematic points in the workforce pipeline for people of color: starting entry-level positions and jumping from assistant to junior executive positions. The initiative will begin with a pilot class of 10 students, who will be mentored by more experienced peers. The class will expand to 50 students within the next two years.
“The fact is that young people are dropping out of the industry because they are not being provided the support to succeed — this program provides them that targeted support,” said Nithya Raman, executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment. “We thank CBS for funding this important program and feel extraordinarily grateful to have such a committed and talented group of industry leaders lending their time and talent to shape this program.”
The initiative was spearheaded by a group of industry veterans, including Chernin president of film and television Jenno Topping, TV executive Tara Duncan, Warner Bros. Pictures senior vice president of film production Niija Kuykendall, and Netflix vice president of original films Tendo Nagenda.
Promising to stand out from the slew of other mentoring programs, “Who’s in the Room” emphasizes engagement from mentors and accountability measures, which include weekly check-ins. With the use of peer networks and incentivized engagement, the initiative will provide participants a specially designed curriculum to succeed, including biz-focused training and personal growth workshops.
“There is nothing short of an urgent need at the moment to have the people who buy, create, and promote entertainment content be more representative of the people we serve,” Topping said. “WITR hopes to exponentially change and expand the landscape within five years by aggressively growing the next crop of producer and executive talent. Recent financial data, such as the recent report from Creative Artists Agency and shift7, confirms it’s in all of our best interests.”
To combat the low or minimum-wage pay given to entry-level positions, the initiative plans to use a financial-aid model to help candidates afford expenses in the form of a flexible fund of up to $10,000 each, to be used for professional development opportunities, basic subsidies, or emergency relief.
The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which is run by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, will also receive a $1.5 million contribution to continue to help survivors of workplace sexual harassment with legal assistance.