Still leads two divisions within A+E: The Build and The Bridge. They are aptly named as she feels “building” and “bridging” with future generations is vital to increase diversity and inclusion within the industry. “One step to improve this is to put a greater effort into community outreach to students at the high school and college level through internships, mentoring programs, job shadowing,” Still says.
A February 2018 UCLA study revealed that of the 45 new scripted shows approved for 2017-18 across broadcast, cable and digital platforms, only four were from creators of color, all of whom were black. What is your reaction to this report?
It’s obviously disappointing and I really believe content is made stronger when it comes from a diverse team. The problem continues to be that there is very little minority representation in the executive suites, in development. Hiring still mainly happens through a network of “who you know,” and most times people aren’t taking the extra step to act outside of their comfort zone. It’s an especially risk-averse time, given all of the options available to the consumer, and I think lack of growth in this area is a symptom.
What’s a recent example of a step forward for diversity in the industry?
This started as a pretty bad thing (as usually is the case), when “Black Panther” was released, white nationalists mobilized to drag down the film’s audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The goal was to shut down the film’s opening weekend—but Facebook and Rotten Tomatoes reacted quickly, and we see what a success the film was.
Now Time’s Up and the USC Annenberg School of Journalism have partnered to launch a new initiative that promotes diversity in entertainment journalism. A recent study shows that minorities and women are severely underrepresented in this area. Unconscious bias can play a huge role in how a film is discussed or reviewed (even without intentional dragging). For instance, men are less likely to mention a female director’s name or use positive words to describe her work. Having a more diverse pool of journalists will help provide consumers with better information and more balanced reviews.
In what areas should the industry step up its efforts with regard to diversity and inclusion?
We suffer from a lack of diversity at the creative exec level. One step to improve this is to put a greater effort into community outreach to students at the high school and college level through internships, mentoring programs, job shadowing. All of these would help expand the students’ network, and give greater understanding and empathy to our execs who may not have much contact with these communities.