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2016 Emmy Awards are Most Diverse Yet – But at What Cost?

Emmys Diversity InclusionMonday night’s Emmy Awards celebrated some fantastic wins for diverse talent in the entertainment industry, with female, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Emmy nominees and winners including:

However, whilst the above achievements suggest that actors of ethnic minority background are achieving greater visibility and recognition for their work, and the media and public alike are celebrating with the hashtag #EmmysSoDiverse, the Emmys have also presented some worrying signs that suggest progress in achieving racial equality has stalled – and in many ways is rapidly worsening.

One immediately noticeable trend involving the BAME winners and nominees is that the majority of the actors were nominated and/or won for their role in The People vs OJ Simpson: a television show focused on the criminal trial of a black man suspected of brutally murdering a white woman. This is problematic in itself but also points to wider issues in the entertainment industry.

The People vs OJ Simpson has received a wealth of critical praise and in terms of racial diversity is leaps and bounds ahead of the American television industry on average, with a fantastic opportunity to showcase non-white talent that resulted in a brilliant diverse cast. However, the show is based on real-life events and all characters are based on real people, of whom a large proportion are black or have an ethnic minority background: from the very beginning the show necessitated, and executives specifically sought and cast, non-white actors.

The disappointing element of the increase in racial diversity is that, although inclusion of BAME actors is always a welcome step towards greater diversity, it was not achieved in this instance because of a proactive attempt by businesses to tell original stories of three-dimensional BAME characters or to open up opportunities for diverse actors. OJ Simpson has more black cast members than other shows only because the story could not have been told without black actors. This then begs the pivotal question:  Is diversity still progressive – and beneficial – when lacking in diverse intentions?

The seeming progression of increased BAME representation also stands in stark contrast to the struggles for racial equality throughout the rest of America. The real-life OJ Simpson trial in the early 1990s shone a spotlight on institutionalised racism, and provided a powerful platform for previously unheard voices to raise awareness of criminal justice bias and police violence against the black community. But more than two decades on, what has really changed?

Though people with ethnic minority backgrounds have won increased legal rights and protections, BAME people across the US, UK and the world still face discrimination every day. Activist groups such as Black Lives Matter argue that police violence against the black community has actually worsened – in America, unarmed black people are five times more likely than unarmed white people to be shot and killed by police.

Whilst entertainment businesses are taking positive steps towards diversity and inclusion, there is a still a long road ahead for greater racial diversity across industries: in the UK,  just 4% of CEOs of FTSE 100 companies are BAME. The opportunities available to actors of ethnic minority and the worrying representation of BAME people in the media reinforce the need for visible role models and increased awareness of the importance of diversity. By championing diverse role models from all backgrounds and career paths and by celebrating our differences, we are on the way to making our world a better and more inclusive place for everyone.

Breakthrough with PwC

On 5th July, I was asked to be a guest speaker at the PwC Breakthrough Programme Relationships and Networks session. Breakthrough aims to increase the diversity of PwC’s leadership and uncover biases whilst working to create new attitudes and behaviours.

I worked alongside senior PwC leaders and their clients in sharing my experiences of creating and building networks. We also discussed the importance of being authentic in the workplace and overcoming barriers to effective networking particularly in terms of gender and culture.


Other guest speakers included Jonathan Howe from PwC and Nicky Moffat CBE. Helen Beedham from Cityparents was also a guest speaker and thoroughly enjoyed the experience:

The discussion was lively, wide-ranging and constructive and the participants’ clients added another valuable perspective to the mix.  PwC is one of 79 City firms who have corporate membership of Cityparents, so I was delighted to collaborate again with them and support their efforts to promote female progression within the company.

The session was organised by PwC’s Inclusive Leadership and Breakthrough Leader, Nicola Caldwell: “I’m really proud of our Breakthrough community who are making a tangible difference to the everyday experiences of their colleagues and clients. Our aim is to truly be able to value difference to enable all our people to flourish.”

We are looking forward to future Breakthrough events!

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Minority Women Leaders Series: Jean Lee, President & CEO of MCCA

Jean Lee is a Korean-American lawyer who was recently appointed as the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. Prior to her new role, Jean was Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

I was on the MCCA board for a few years and now it’s fantastic to be in a position where I can focus on my MCCA work full-time,” she says.

Since coming into her new role, Jean is rapidly developing MCCA into a global leader in all issues of diversity:

Diversity looks different across the globe. Our vision is to be a global thought leader. We already have members outside of the States and 2017 will be our year focusing on working internationally and developing what we do.”

Jean is also keen to reach out to younger diverse candidates. “I’m keen to develop strong pipeline programmes for diverse law school candidates. We are working with law schools on specific programming as you need to start the discussions around diversity and inclusion as early as possible. We need to be proactive rather than reactive.”

The MCCA prides itself on being a holistic diversity and inclusion association and not just a minority network. The internal make-up of the organisation has changed and grown accordingly with its members:

Over the years, I’ve seen our board really diversify. We don’t just have African Americans and Caucasions, we have Asian Americans, Hispanic and LGBT leaders. The MCCA encompasses more than race: we also champion women, LGBT and generational diversity. We recently conducted a study on how milennials embrace diversity of thought and also examined the different approaches to diversity around thought, age and people.”

Focusing on diversity of thought and the millennial generation is a very interesting area. Research from the latest consensus in the USA shows that by the year 2040, the USA will be majority-minority for the first time. Millennials now number 83.1 million and have surpassed Baby Boomers at 75.4 million.

Milennials are the most diverse generation in history: “Diversity is a rapidly-changing and growing issue. Soon, we will need a new term to refer to ‘minorities’ and our research is already placing us in a position to take on these issues and launch ourselves as a true global diversity leader,” she says.

For more information: http://www.mcca.com/

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Top 100 most impactful BAME executives named in inaugural UPstanding list

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The inaugural UPstanding list, created in partnership with the FT, is the first ranking of it’s kind to wholly unite business leaders from across all BAME communities, internationally. This profiling initiative forms part of a wider campaign to shine a light on BAME business leaders who have made an impact and achieved great success and to champion those with a passion for driving the BAME agenda forward. It is produced to encourage and inspire the BAME leaders of tomorrow.

Today, just 3% of CEOs in FTSE 100 companies and 7% of AIM CEOs are not white, despite the BAME community making up 14% of the UK population meaning that ethnic diversity in British board rooms lags almost 2 decades behind female representation at the top level.

These statistics are shocking and quite frankly –unacceptable. That’s why profiling those individuals that are succeeding, in spite of this bias, as often as possible is so important.

The organisations profiled in today’s list employ over 5.3 million people worldwide. Our potential reach is huge and the impact will hopefully be felt not just in the UK and US but also in countries where equality is not a promoted agenda.

The fact is, there is a diversity deficit at the very top of organisations in both the UK and the US and we whole-heartedly believe that highlighting diverse role models and celebrating them is the most powerful way to address this as you are demonstrating to the leaders of tomorrow exactly what is possible for minority ethnic groups. The message of this list is that there should be no boundaries or barriers for your potential.

#CSuiteSoWhite: Launching ‘The UPstanding Executive Power List’

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One of the biggest topics in global news this year has been ethnic diversity. From University admissions to the Oscars, there is an unsettling sense of regression in the number of visibly successful BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic- including Hispanic and Middle Eastern) people in both the UK and the US- and corporate c-suites are one of the worst offenders.

Our most recent research has discovered that despite BAME communities making up 14% of the UK population, just 4% of CEOs of businesses listed on the FTSE 100 are BAME. The situation is just as bad in the US where although the non-white population make up 28% of the total just 11% of businesses listed on the S&P 100 have non-white CEOs. #OscarsSoWhite? #CSuiteSoWhite!

This means there is just one BAME CEO of a FTSE 100 company for every 1.8 million BAME people in the UK, compared to one white CEO for every 600,000 white people. Looking at the problem from the bottom up paints an equally bleak picture; despite 1 in 8 of the working age population coming from a BAME background, only 1 in 10 are in the workplace. In response to this, we are launching a ground-breaking initiative, ‘UPstanding’.

UPstanding will profile, for the first time, the top 100 BAME business executives from the UK and the US based on their efforts in improving the BAME agenda in and out of work but also their success in breaking through to the top echelons of business.

Are you, or do you know, someone who is living in UK or US and is ethnically diverse, who proves that race need not be a barrier to success and who positively and actively supports the BAME cause at an executive level? If so, please nominate them or yourself for our 2016 UPstanding Executive Power List before Sunday, April 17 by clicking here.

To encourage others to get involved, share the link for nominations using the hashtag #CSuiteSoWhite.

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