The former BBC and ITV presenter has become a campaigner for greater BAME representation in British sports media and is determined to see radical change to a stark issue
Leon Mann tells a story which, by his own admission, is as depressing as it is amusing. It goes back to his early days at the BBC and when he first found himself in the company of the presenter Damian Johnson.
“I remember asking him which football team he used to play for,” says Mann. “Growing up, all the black people I saw on TV talking about sport were former athletes, so I presumed Damian was the same. But of course he wasn’t. He was – is – a fully-trained, highly-experienced journalist. Damian being Damian, he took it well.”
Mann laughs as he delivers that final line but there is no denying the seriousness of his point and especially so after he reveals that people have made the same mistake about him during a career in broadcasting that began more than a decade ago and seen the 39-year-old cover a host of major events, including the 2012 Olympics and Euro 2016, for ITV as well as the BBC.
Quite simply, there are very few people from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background working as sports journalists in this country, with the bulk of those in the public eye having kicked a ball, run on a track or punched someone professionally in a former career. It is a damning state of affairs and something Mann has been campaigning to change since 2010, when he founded the Black Collective of Media in Sport (Bcoms), a lobbying group aimed at increasing diversity in an industry which, to put it bluntly, has been too white for too long.
People of Color in Publishing and We Need Diverse Books, two volunteer organizations focused on making the book industry more diverse, held a joint town hall meeting on April 11 in the auditorium of the Penguin Random House building to mark their progress and discuss plans for the future.
The meeting attracted a crowd of nearly 90 industry professionals for a panel featuring WNDB founder/CEO Ellen Oh that was moderated by POCinPub founder Patrice Caldwell. Along with Oh, the panel featured WNDB executive director Nicole Johnson and WNDB program director Carolyn Richmond. They updated town hall attendees on the impact of WNBD’s programs, as well as on the fast growth and development of POCinPub since its founding in 2017.
Caldwell opened the meeting with an outline of POCinPub’s beginnings as a private Facebook group in 2016 that quickly grew to more than 900 members. POCinPub, she noted, is organized around a number of committees—among them the Communications and External Events Committee, which maintains POCinPub’s social media accounts, organizes social events such as the POCinPub Holiday Social, facilitates jobs contacts, and manages email and other promotional support for books aimed at minority readers.
POCinPub’s Membership and Retention Committee, Caldwell said, has launched a mentorship program that connects more than 20 veteran editors with junior professionals that will run from January through June. Caldwell added that, since its formal launch in late 2017, POCinPub has “placed over 40 people of color into book industry jobs.” A POCinPub committee for writers and illustrators also offers a mentoring program that pairs 35 mentors and protégés, and hosts portfolio reviews and social events including a series of write-and-sketch nights.
The POCinPub Outreach and Events Committee works to create social events and sponsors webinars on diversity to help people of color find positions in publishing, or simply to provide a community to those who have book industry experience.
Coming up in 2019, Caldwell said, POCinPub is working to become a nonprofit 501(c)(3) and, in conjunction with Latinx in Publishing, is working to launch the Anonymous Survey Examining Workplace Racism, a study that will try to get information on whether staffers feel they are victims of racism in the workplace.
Oh noted that WNDB was founded in response to the “BookCon debacle” of 2014, when ReedPop scheduled a slate of “all white dudes” for the young adult panels at its consumer-oriented book fair. Both organizations, Oh and Caldwell emphasized, essentially began as hashtags on social media. “So much has changed and not changed,” Oh said. “But the energy level in this room feels good. Five years ago we were just a hashtag.”
The panelists praised the power of social media, citing WNDB social media campaigns such as the popular “We need diverse books because…” campaign. “It showed that the diverse books movement is comprised not just of people of color but of people with disabilities, the LGTBQ community, etc.,” Oh said. “Diversity is for everyone; you can read books about everyone.”
“It’s still special when kids get a book with a character in it who looks like them,” Johnson said. “There are still young people who are not getting that experience; it’s still a challenge.”
Oh said that in the future, WNDB will strive to directly engage with publishers to expand diversity in their publishing programs. The organization also plans to hire additional personnel, extend its social media capacity, and add video content to its social media and outreach campaigns. Oh emphasized the need to “share success stories” about diversity in book publishing, noting that WNDB will continue to publish a series of anthologies featuring diverse authors. The organization will also focus its efforts to encourage sales and marketing departments to support diverse titles.
Most importantly, Oh said, WNDB and POCinPub will continue to support people of color and other minorities in book publishing. “We’ve got your back,” she said. “We’re your community.”
Cubic Corporation (NYSE
“As a company with a global presence, it’s especially important for us to cultivate a diverse and inclusive culture,” said Grace Lee, senior vice president, chief human resources and diversity officer, Cubic Corporation. “A diverse and inclusive workplace leads to increased innovation, performance and employee engagement and we are constantly focused on increasing our diversity of thought and experiences to further strengthen our inclusive environment.”
Respondents were asked to rate their organizations on criteria such as age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation equality as well as general diversity. The survey was conducted on companies from all industry sectors, including engineering and manufacturing; aerospace and defense; transportation and logistics; banking and financial services; education; healthcare; as well as IT, Internet, software and services.
The survey was administered online and results were calculated using a representative sample of close to 50,000 employees working for companies throughout the U.S. working part- or full-time. The full list of 2019 Best Employers for Diversity can be found at Forbes.com.
LOS ANGELES — Stung by fierce criticism about a lack of diversity on both sides of the screen, movie studios have scrambled to create fellowship programs for underrepresented directors and writers. A few stars and entertainment companies have publicly supported “inclusion riders” requiring a diverse cast and crew.
But little-coordinated action has been taken to increase the number of entertainment executives of color.
So The Hollywood Reporter, a trade publication, decided to address the problem by creating a two-year job-training program called the Young Executives Fellowship. Starting in April and continuing annually, 25 underrepresented and low-income high school juniors in Los Angeles will be selected to participate. Amazon Studios and the WME talent agency are sponsors, and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Martin Luther King III will sit on the advisory board.
“This is not a mentorship — it’s regimented job training designed to get results,” said Matthew Belloni, The Reporter’s editorial director, adding that Hollywood had to stop talking about the need for more diversity and start doing something about it. “So many panel discussions, so little action,” he said.
If you’ve ever sat through an interminable, self-congratulatory industry awards program, you’ll be pleased to know that the 2019 Advancing Diversity Hall of Honors is definitely not like that.
The awards recognize and honor best practices for advancing diversity and inclusion, and were created last year by one of the advertising and media industry’s best-known thought leaders, Jack Myers. They’re produced by Myers’ AdvancingDiversity.org, and will be held January 9th in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show—specifically at the ARIA Hotel Conference Center, where more than 400 CES attendees are expected.
The 2019 Advancing Diversity Hall of Honors take a fresh approach to awards programs. In an experiential format created in 2014 by the Sundance Institute and the design and consulting firm IDEO called “Creative Tensions,” a moderator leads 100% of the attendees in exploring attitudes, conflicts and challenges. The objective is to find a path to the middle in solving common problems. At the Advancing Diversity Hall of Honors, the honorees themselves will serve as catalysts—or provocateurs—in the group discussions.
Eight executives in media, marketing and advertising are being inducted, including:
Madonna Badger, CCO and Founder, Badger & Winters, for gender equality in advertising.
Kat Gordon, Founder of the 3% Movement.
Alma Har’el, Director and Founder of #FreeTheBid.
Pam El, CMO of the NBA, for gender and diversity leadership.
Bob Liodice, CEO, Association of National Advertisers, for its Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing.
Ricardo Marques, Anheuser-Busch InBev group vice president of marketing core & value brands, for Budweiser’s diversity & inclusion campaigns.
Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer, P&G, for diversity leadership.
Diego Scotti, CMO, Verizon, for its AdFellows Initiative.
The program is followed by the Inclusive Talent Job Fair, with recruiters from the world’s biggest agencies, tech companies and media brands. It’s designed to be a natural complement to the awards—honoring diversity in the workforce, and creating opportunities for those entering the field.
“It’s important to me for MediaVillage to be a leader in gender diversity, and to be at the forefront of advancing the industry and getting out ahead of recognized trends,” Myers says. “One of the biggest and most important trends was understanding the need to attract a diverse talent pool, and our industry is underperforming.”
Diversity remains a challenge in media and advertising, Myers says, because like other industries, it’s relationship driven—people tend to hire people like them, from the same colleges and social circles. “And it’s New York and Los Angeles centric,” he adds. “The cost of living is high. Salaries are historically low. A lot of young people have not been able to make a go of it. Talent acquisition has been reasonable, but talent retention has been terrible.”
In addition to the value of diversity to the industry overall, Myers says, he saw the awards initiative as an important business opportunity. “We’re investing in it, it’s good business for our industry and for our clients to have a voice in the diversity conversation,” he says.
Both events are owned by AdvancingDiversity.org parent MediaVillage, a membership-based research and marketing-communications organization founded by Myers for advertising and media companies and professionals.
This year’s recipients join the 2018 inductees, including from the Advertising Council (Lisa Sherman); Crowdfunding Roadmap (Ruth Hedges); Ernst & Young (Megan Hobson and Hiren Shukla); Interactive Advertising Bureau (Randall Rothenberg and Megan Hauck); Interpublic Group (Michael Roth and Heide Gardner); Nielsen (Angela Talton); Springboard Enterprises (Kay Koplovitz); and Unilever (Aline Santos).
Media and Diversity: What exposure can do
Recently for the Washburn Review, I was tasked with watched “Welcome to Waverly,” a new Bravo docuseries that follows the adventures of seven diverse urbanites in Waverly, a tiny town in Kansas with a demographic that hasn’t changed in centuries. However, I wasn’t able to access the show because I don’t have a TV service provider. This is not a review of the show, but I will use the show’s premise as a segue to my opinion about diversity and how media exposure of small town culture to the larger world and vice versa can bring about the kind of diversity societies and institutions should pine for. I will focus mainly on affirmative action and diversity fatigue.
From what reviews I have read online, it seems that Bravo has brought a refreshing, nuanced tone to their show that other reality shows don’t seem to have. They have cut down on the drama, the episode-spanning spats and the melodramatic reactions that would have usually come with shows about people living together. The reaction from the Waverly locals are muted and respectful. There are jabs here and there, but they are limited. The reviews laud the less divisive presentation of America. Here’s the thing, Waverly hasn’t directly felt the effects of systematic and internalized racism, sexism or other discriminatory practices that plague society.
While the show deserves praise for not sensationalizing events, it may fall victim to not diving deeply enough into the issues of diversity that big cities deal with directly, such as affirmative action, identity politics or brash inclusion initiatives.
Then again, big cities haven’t shown much progress in dealing with those issues. For example, taking affirmative action comes with a slew of problems. I understand the urge to instill programs in offices and colleges. However, I think it only serves as sort of a compensation, a short-term solution to a problem that has its roots in historical and social contexts. The idea of greater representation is nice, and no one disagrees that diversity is a good thing, but it can be ineffective when the root of the problem is not examined.
Representation without deeper understanding is just like a veil covering the darker underbelly of racism or sexism. In fact, poorly executed inclusion initiatives have shown to induce diversity fatigue in employees and managers. This occurs when people feel so much responsibility for instilling and maintaining diversity that they simply become tired of it. As employers and managers attempt to tackle diversity, they are always going to run into the root causes of the issue, which is too much for any one person to handle.
One thing that the show does right to solve these problems is that it gives exposure to the lives of small-town people. Of course, it could do more to add to the character of the town, but this could be a first step toward opening citizens up to the idea of diversity.
Media still holds a lot of power today, and shows like this may change the way people view each other. After all, education is crucial in battling oppression. There are possible missteps, though, that should be considered. Often, even with the best of intentions, show makers may present a group in such a way as to give way to negative interpretations. This happens because of the inherent bias of lack of financial backing that might prevent the people working on the show from covering a topic from all angles. I just hope that “Welcome to Waverly” has done that.