Hollywood’s commitment to addressing its diversity issues is continuing to come into question after the departure of several high profile Black women diversity, equity, and, inclusion (DEI) executives.
It was announced on June 20 by Variety that Disney’s chief diversity officer and senior vice president Latondra Newton would be exiting her role. She’d been in her DEI role over six years.
Newton’s exit was followed by a report on June 28 from Variety that Netflix’s first-ever head of inclusion Vernā Myers would be leaving her role at the end of September.
Then on June 30 it was announced that Warner Bros. had laid off its DEI executive Karen Horne and Jeanell English would be leaving her role as executive vice president of impact and inclusion at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
The news regarding these DEI execs departures sparked swift commentary across social media — including a concerned post from Hollywood star Yvette Nicole Brown.
And their exits being announced around the same time as the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down affirmative action added to the scrutiny of their departures.
It should be noted that Newton and Myers assumed their roles with the companies years before the 2020 racial reckoning that saw companies across industries make swift actions to bring in DEI leaders to assist them in addressing internal diversity issues. However, Horne started her role in 2020 and English was promoted to her newly created role in July 2022
Their departures come amid a larger trend of DEI execs stepping down or being laid off after companies’ pledges to take serious action to address DEI-related issues.
“I always say that it is so easy to make public statements and commitments because no one will eventually check if you’re committed to the things that you committed to,” said Reyhan Ayas, a senior economist at Revelio Labs, in an interview with NBC News.
“I can say: ‘I will be fully vegan by 2025’ because no one will ever call me in 2025 and ask me if I’m actually fully vegan. And that’s really what is going on here. In 2020, a lot of companies made big commitments, big statements around the DEI roles and goals. And as we are observing a turning of that tide, I think it’s very timely that we actually look into companies to see if they have kept up with those big statements they made.”