The boys club that was once synonymous with Vice is quietly disbanding.
A seismic shift in the work culture and make-up of Vice Media Group (VMG) under CEO Nancy Dubuc appears to be paying dividends, as per the company’s 2020 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) report, which reveals that women now comprise over half of the Shane Smith-founded company’s global workforce.
Shared exclusively with Variety, the report shows the number of people identifying as a woman at VMG increased by 5.8% across the year, bringing the overall total to 56%. Of new hires around the world, 58% identified as women.
Former A+E Networks boss Dubuc, who took the reins of the company in a shock move in 2018, promised to stamp out its “bro culture” on the back of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations in 2017, but was back firefighting last summer following the Refinery29 scandal.
The women’s lifestyle brand was acquired by VMG in late 2019, and made headlines in June as part of a wave of media leadership upheavals sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement. After criticism over the brand’s lack of racial diversity and allegations of racial discrimination, Christene Barberich, co-founder and global editor-in-chief, stepped down from the role, and was replaced in September by former Facebook executive Simone Oliver.
“We took the stories of these women very seriously, and we took concrete and swift action,” says former Disney executive and DEI specialist Daisy Auger-Dominguez (pictured), who joined Vice as Chief People Officer in March.
“We wanted to ensure everybody knew this wasn’t something we were sweeping under the rug, but that we were going to face it head on, and it wasn’t just about good intention, but good intention followed by action,” explains Auger-Dominguez. VMG immediately began recruiting for the role eventually filled by Oliver, and top leadership went on a global listening tour.
VMG’s new DEI strategy spans a review of its talent acquisition process, resulting in a new Hiring Playbook; the release of the second Pay Equity Report and broadened inclusive benefits; a recalibration of performance management to be more objective and reduce bias; management and inclusive leadership training; and the launch of a new Code of Conduct and Respect in the Workplace policies.
Variety was not provided historic data of the company’s past DEI performance and, as such, the data is only limited to 2019 and 2020 figures encompassing the company’s 35 offices around the world. Moreover, while gender was tracked globally, collecting data based on ethnicity isn’t legal in every international market and, therefore, this element of the report is only limited to U.S. and U.K. figures, with the latter documented on an opt-in basis.
In the U.S., there was a 3.9% increase in employees who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), with 42% of total U.S. staff identifying as such. Over half of new hires were BIPOC-identifying (54%), signifying growth of 9.12%. Meanwhile, of the BIPOC new hires, 21% identified as Black or African American.
Of the VMG executive team, the 2019 roster was 68% men- and 32% women-identifying. In 2020, it was 56% men- and 44% women-identifying.
Perhaps most impressive are the gains in BIPOC representation across the U.S. executive team. In 2019, this group was 80% white and 20% BIPOC. In 2020, it was 57% white and 43% BIPOC. For the first time, there are executives who identify as Hispanic and Two or More Races.
In the U.K., 70% of staff provided the ethnicity they identify with. Of the data available, 52% of those who submitted their data are white and 17% identified as Black, Mixed or Asian.
Elsewhere, a global Employee Engagement survey showed a 15 percentage point increase in employee sentiment of DEI, manager and leadership measures, reflecting a recognition of the changes being made across the company.
In a note to staff introducing the report, former A+E Networks boss Dubuc described the results as “an edifying experience.”
“We have made great progress in diversifying thought, experience and background,” said Dubuc, “but we are also aware that we cannot take our collective foot off the gas at VMG (or in the wider industry).”
Auger-Dominguez, meanwhile, underlines that the VMG strategy moving forward is not “the blunt instrument of having a hiring initiative, going to source diverse talent, and then hoping to God that that will bring more diverse hires.
“This is not about hoping, this is about making this happen, and making sure that every step of the way, we are being intentional, we’re being thoughtful, and we’re bringing in everybody on board. This is everyone’s responsibility,” says Auger-Dominguez.
(Pictured: Channel 4’s “Hair Power: Me and My Afro,” produced by VMG-backed Pulse Films)