×

Diversity Soars On-Screen, but Lags in Hollywood’s Rooms of Power

Three years after the viral movement #OscarsSoWhite highlighted the exclusion of people of color from all levels of show business, 2018 brought some visible wins for diversity. But the inclusive spirit has yet to translate into inclusive hiring at top executive rungs of the major studios and talent agencies.

Despite highlights like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” and their respective box office hauls, and the fact that 16 movies in the top 100 were directed by African American filmmakers, the levers of decision-making within the country’s most powerful media organizations continue to be largely controlled by white males — particularly in the film industry.  No major film studio is run by a person of color, and only one, Universal, boasts a female chairman, Donna Langley.

Variety did its own evaluation of top leadership across town to mark our annual Inclusion Impact Report. Here are the findings: 

STUDIOS

DISNEY

The monolith’s shadow only grew this year with its acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film and TV. With that came some fluctuation that tipped already favorable gender scales. Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden, 20th Century Fox Film vice chairman Emma Watts and Fox Searchlight co-head Nancy Utley joined Disney’s leadership ranks. In 2018, Cathleen Taff was promoted to president of global theatrical distribution, making Disney the only major studio to have a female distribution chief. Kathleen Kennedy continues to run point at Lucasfilm, the production company behind “Star Wars,” while “Frozen” director Jennifer Lee was newly appointed to lead Disney Animation. Diversity at the senior level, however, remains elusive outside of studio marketing chief Asad Ayaz. The company declined to disclose what percentage of senior leadership was inclusive.

PARAMOUNT

After Jim Gianopulos took the reins in 2017, the studio was hit with two accusations of gender bias, from former marketing chief Megan Colligan and TV chief Amy Powell. Both claims were settled privately. Last year, Gianopulos named Nicole Clemens to the top TV job. Paramount Animation has long been anchored by Mireille Soria. Several key studio leaders sit on a Global Inclusion Advisory Committee, formed by Paramount owner Viacom and chaired by CEO Bob Bakish and group exec VP Marva Smalls. Paramount declined to disclose the percentage of diversity among its top executive team.

SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT

From the vice president level up, executive leadership is 42% female — an 8% improvement in the last decade — and roughly 26% of the team identifies as ethnically diverse, insiders familiar with the studio said. In the past year alone, 50% of hires VP or higher were female, and 30% were ethnically diverse. Notable recent additions include Ellene Miles, an African American senior VP of intersectional marketing who was brought in to help the studio reach underrepresented communities in efforts to push groundbreaking fare like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”  Sony declined to disclose what percentage of leadership was inclusive.

UNIVERSAL

Under Langley’s leadership of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Janine Jones-Clark was appointed senior VP of Global Talent Development and Inclusion, a new branch aimed at raising the studio’s diversity efforts. Reporting to Langley is Abhijay Prakash, president of the filmed entertainment group. At film divisions under the Universal umbrella, Margie Cohn was recently named president of DreamWorks Animation, while Lisa Bunnell serves as distribution head at Focus Features. Langley sits on a committee with NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment chairman Jeff Shell and NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer. The company declined to disclose what percentage of senior leadership was inclusive.

WARNER BROS.

With the ouster of Kevin Tsujihara, the interim leaders include one woman, chief financial officer Kim Williams, who serves alongside Warner film group chief Toby Emmerich and television head Peter Roth. The studio’s DC Films unit is run by Walter Hamada. In October, parent company WarnerMedia made an unprecedented pledge to adopt a policy that would ensure equitable hiring practices at every level of production. The company also promised a sweeping audit to gauge internal diversity, and will publish the results ahead of this month’s Cannes Film Festival. WarnerMedia declined to disclose its employment demographics.

AGENCIES

CAA

Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane serve as managing partners and Richard Lovett as president at the storied agency. Executives like Christy Haubegger, the founder of Latina magazine and head of multicultural business development, and chief innovation officer Michelle Kydd Lee help boost diversity initiatives within the agency. Notable among those is the Amplify Database, a searchable list of television writers of color. The agency declined to disclose diversity and inclusion percentages.

ICM

The Century City shop, which serves names like Shonda Rimes and Ellen DeGeneres, was the only agency to fully disclose numbers. According to an agency spokesperson, 50% of ICM employees are women, 25% of the workforce identify as nonwhite and 45% of agents are women, as are 33% of the board of directors.

UTA

Under the leadership of CEO Jeremy Zimmer, this year UTA became the first major talent agency to appoint a woman as chief financial officer in Lyndsay Harding. Agent Blair Kohan also joined the board of directors, the first female appointment since Tracey Jacobs in 2008. In January, Darnell Strom was hired to lead the new Culture and Leadership division. The company declined to disclose what percentage of senior leadership was inclusive. 

WME

Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell’s talent shop (turned conglomerate Endeavor) has similar programs to CAA, such as WME Empower. Led by Theresa Kang-Lowe and Phil Sun, the program aims to pair every new assistant in the door with an agent mentor. While the agency was satisfied with its diverse recruitment efforts, retention was an issue, due to how often rising agents tend to shuffle jobs. At parent Endeavor, one of the most visible women of color in entertainment, Bozoma Saint John, serves as the chief marketing officer. Last October, Endeavor hired Under Armour executive Kerry Chandler as chief human resources officer, citing her “unwavering commitment” to diversity. The company declined to disclose what percentage of senior leadership was diverse and inclusive.

More Biz

  • Rose McGowan

    Rose McGowan Files Racketeering Suit Against Harvey Weinstein, David Boies, Lisa Bloom

    Rose McGowan filed a racketeering lawsuit on Wednesday against Harvey Weinstein, as well as against his ex-attorneys Lisa Bloom and David Boies and the spy firm Black Cube. The lawsuit alleges that Weinstein conspired with his attorneys to suppress and discredit her allegation that Weinstein raped her at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. “This [...]

  • hulu-logo

    Hulu Appoints Netflix's Spencer Peeples as Vice President of Film and Awards Marketing

    Hulu has appointed Spencer Peeples, who currently works as director of awards at Netflix, as its vice president of film and awards marketing, marking the first time the Disney-owned streamer has hired a senior exec dedicated to awards. In his new high-profile role, Peeples will lead the strategy and execution of Hulu’s awards campaigns, as [...]

  • UTA

    UTA Taps Ashley Momtaheni as Director of Corporate Communications

    Ashley Momtaheni is jumping ship from Annapurna Pictures to UTA. The agency has tapped Momtaheni as its new director of corporate communications, reporting to its global chief communications officer, Seth Oster. In her new role, Momtaheni will focus primarily on external communications, rounding out UTA’s senior communications team with veteran UTA comms executive Lisa Stein [...]

  • Euphoria HBO

    'It's an Explosion': Inside the Rising Costs of Making a Scripted TV Series

    When Apple TV plus launches on Nov. 1, it will do so with what’s arguably the most expensive new-series lineup in TV history. Among the streamer’s initial offerings are the drama “The Morning Show,” bearing a price tag believed to be more than $15 million an episode, and the dystopian sci-fi series “See,” which is [...]

  • CBS HEADQUARTERS

    Wall Street Trims ViacomCBS Forecasts After Post-Deal Financial Disclosure

    Top media analysts have cut their short-term growth prospects for ViacomCBS following last week’s financial disclosures that came as part of the closing of CBS Corp.’s stock-swap takeover deal for Viacom. In the Oct. 17 filing, CBS Corp. released specific year-to-year projections for its free cash flow yield, guidance that the company has not offered [...]

  • Alexander Vlahos (Monsieur/Philippe d'Orléans), George Blagden

    Merged Banijay-Endemol Shine Would Be Global Powerhouse in a Content-Hungry World

    If France’s Banijay Group clinches its proposed purchase of Endemol Shine, which could happen within the next few days, the deal would mark peak M&A in the international indie content world. The MO of both companies is acquiring and aggregating brands and IP, and their union would be the largest ever of its kind on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content