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ViacomCBS Cuts Diversity Staff Amid Consolidation (EXCLUSIVE)

CBS HEADQUARTERS
JIM COOPER/AP/REX/Shutterstock

ViacomCBS is letting go of staff amid a reorganization of its corporate diversity and inclusion department. Sources tell Variety that the cuts are concentrated in CBS’ legacy corporate-diversity department.

According to sources, five members of CBS’ nine-person corporate diversity team have been let go or have been told that their positions are likely to be eliminated. Among those affected are two high-ranking corporate diversity execs and three assistants, one of whom is a contract employee. All impacted employees have either left or are expected to leave the company by May 31. One source told Variety that talks with employees are ongoing and that final decisions regarding the makeup of the ViacomCBS corporate diversity and inclusion team have not been made.

A ViacomCBS spokesperson declined to comment.

Sources tell Variety that New York-based staffers were first informed that positions would be eliminated last month after a meeting with global head of inclusion Marva Smalls at Viacom’s corporate headquarters to discuss planning for the media giant’s efforts for Black History Month.

Smalls was named global head of inclusion for ViacomCBS in November, ahead of the closing of the deal that saw Viacom acquire CBS Corp. She previously held the same position for Viacom. Smalls’ legacy Viacom department is said to consist of four people total, while similar departments at ViacomCBS brands Paramount and Nickelodeon are said to contain two to three employees each. The diversity and inclusion department at CBS Entertainment, which consists of five people, is said to be unaffected. Also in November, the company announced that Josie Thomas, executive vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at CBS Corp., would exit the company following a transition period. Thomas is expected to depart as early as next week.

Changes in the diversity and inclusion ranks come amid a massive company-wide reorganization at the newly formed ViacomCBS that is expected to impact multiple departments.

Under ousted CEO Leslie Moonves, CBS had been frequently criticized for lagging behind competitors in terms of diversity and inclusion on both its broadcast network and in its executive ranks. Outgoing CBS Corp. CEO Joe Ianniello touted the company’s diversity efforts in an August memo distributed to staff last summer in the lead up to the CBS and Viacom merger.

“I am reiterating CBS’ lasting principles of fairness, collaboration and respect that govern all of us,” Ianniello wrote. “My leadership team is fully on board, and I will take the lead in holding everyone accountable, so that inclusiveness is understood as a business imperative and a cornerstone of our culture.” He went on to say that the company was “increasing headcount and resources in Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion.” ViacomCBS announced last month that Ianniello would exit the company, as Viacom and NBCUniversal veteran George Cheeks comes aboard to head most of the legacy CBS businesses.

In November, ViacomCBS’ chairwoman Shari Redstone said that she was committed to ensuring that the company’s board reflected gender and racial diversity during an appearance at the Paley Center for Media’s International Council Summit in New York