Meet the Black woman leading the Television Academy’s diversity and inclusion initiative—and why it might actually work

August 23, 2022, 7:41 PM UTC
Y-Vonne Hutchinson speaks at the Bloomberg Breakaway CEO Summit in New York.
Y-Vonne Hutchinson and her consulting firm, ReadySet, are leading the charge on the Television Academy's diversity and inclusion initiative.
Mark Kauzlarich—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Television Academy just announced it will be hosting its first-ever DEI summit on December 1, timed to dig more deeply into the findings of its latest industry-wide diversity report. Some of the findings will be familiar to you.

New from the study, reported by Variety:

  • Underrepresentation – “While there has been reported growth in gender and race/ethnicity representation, members from historically marginalized backgrounds still perceive a lack of sufficient representation, especially for those with intersecting marginalized identities,” the study reported.
  • Exclusionary Lived Experiences – “[M]embers from historically marginalized communities reported significantly more exclusionary and harmful experiences in their workplaces—including microaggressions and harassment—than non-marginalized members. Members from marginalized groups were also more likely to report being undercompensated and even passing on job opportunities due to perceived DEI issues.”
  • Insufficient Action – “Members across peer groups and identities noted confidence in their understanding of DEI topics and issues, but only a small percentage perceived impactful actions or progress towards resolving DEI issues at their workplaces and in the industry at large,” noted the study.

“Overall, the data illuminates how Academy members with historically marginalized identities experience exclusion and less access to opportunities,” said TV Academy chairman Frank Scherma.

Now the work begins. That said, I’m feeling unusually optimistic about this effort.

Here’s why. As part of their published set of commitments to diversify the industry, the Academy hired consulting firm ReadySet, which helped produce the 2021 Television Academy Membership Survey, and has been handling data-collection, assessment, and intervention efforts. ReadySet is led by founder and CEO Y-Vonne Hutchinson, who is a superstar in her own right.

In her previous life, she was an international human rights lawyer who led ground-breaking work protecting Nicaraguan sugar cane workers who were dying from occupational illnesses.

After returning to the U.S. she co-founded Project Include in 2016, an open source, well-researched playbook for tech companies looking to get serious about inclusion. More recently, she’s the author of the must-read How to Talk to Your Boss About Race: Speaking Up Without Getting Shut Down, a book she produced during the thick of the pandemic while pregnant. She describes the book as part memoir, part user guide for better workplaces. “I wanted to share some of our learnings out,” she says in this interview with The Female Quotient. But, she says, “it’s not just about race, but about how you as an individual change a system, a culture, for the better.”

To get your own infusion of Hutchinson’s insights, I suggest watching this short talk, in which she shares, among other things, her top ten ways that companies can diversify from the inside out.

But beyond the top ten list, she provides a unique and global perspective.

She begins by defining inclusion as the labor lawyer she is, “The right to access high-opportunity employment.” She cites alarming global trends that are derailing women, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities on the path to full, aspirational employment: decreasing access to higher education, decreasing economic mobility, and increasing inequality.

It’s a more expansive way to think about inclusion and offers a hopeful harbinger for what might come next for the television industry. “The private sector and our companies can either entrench these trends, or they can take the lead in fighting them.”

Ellen McGirt

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ashley Sylla.

On point

Study: Job performance feedback is biased and it’s not subtle, either. According to a new report from augmented writing company Textio, women are 11 times more likely than men to report being described as “abrasive” in performance feedback; Black women are four times more likely than white men to be called an “overachiever;” and Asian men are seven times more likely to be called “brilliant” or “genius” in their reviews than Latinas. Textio surveyed some 25,000 workers and assessed performance review documentation to find “strong patterns of inequity.”
Textio, People of Color in Tech

Holding the U.S. State Department accountable The U.S. Government Accountability Office has published a detailed new post assessing the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) efforts within the U.S. State Department and the Agency for International Development (USAID). It takes a real tone. Here’s just one example: “We recently reviewed State’s efforts to address diversity issues since our 2020 report. State had identified several potential barriers to diversity, such as lower pass rates for African Americans on the Foreign Service Officer test. Identifying barriers is an important step toward addressing them. However, we found that, in some instances, State did not investigate the root causes of potential barriers before implementing steps to eliminate them. As a result, State can’t be sure the steps it took actually address barriers.”
GAO Blog

Justice for people with disabilities begins with data This piece from Health Affairs is focused chiefly on COVID, decrying the lack of data on people with disabilities during the pandemic. “The Household Pulse Survey," a biweekly survey assessing the impact of the pandemic on U.S. households, did not include standard questions about disability until April 2021, during the second year of the pandemic. Gaps in disability data within electronic health records have prevented tracking of COVID-19 testing, vaccination, and mortality among people with disabilities. It’s a justice movement waiting to happen. “Efforts are underway to reimagine public health infrastructures to support equity and justice. But too often, people with disabilities are not included on teams leading this restructuring and remain at risk of being de-prioritized in public health data systems.”
Health Affairs

Guess which zip codes currently have the most guns in the U.S.? If you guessed the counties which had the highest numbers of enslaved people in 1860, you’d be right. It’s a fascinating study and explains a lot about entrenched ideas about gun ownership. "What we see is a strong correlation between the number of slaves in a county in 1860 and the number of guns there now, even after we control for variables like personal politics, crime rates, and education and income," says Nick Buttrick, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of psychology, who produced the study as a researcher at Princeton University. "Gun culture is one case where American Exceptionalism really is true. We are really radically different even from countries like Canada or Australia, places that have similar cultural roots." And one poignant note—because there is no historical database of national gun ownership—the researchers used a sad but accepted proxy: records of suicides by firearm.

Parting words

"Unless it is stopped, the woke mind virus will destroy civilization and humanity will never reached Mars.”

Elon Musk on Twitter



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