The Why: For Cooke, keeping her connections from her 30 years in the industry and mentoring creatives of color on both sides of the camera through organizations like the Alliance of Women in Media, Capital B and Solutions Journalism remains as important as ever. As the first woman of color to lead ESPN Films, she works with groups including Pop Collab, which creates opportunities for women, LGBTQ+, disabled and other marginalized groups.
She Says… “We need more diverse candidates involved as recruiters, taking part in the interview process and, crucially, getting a seat in the room when the ultimate decisions are made. It’s not enough to have a few token interviews.”
Place I would love to retire to: It’s a no-brainer: Italy. Specifically, the hills of Tuscany. La dolce vita! Superb food, the people and, of course, the wine! Yes, a bit of magical thinking on my part, but why not? It truly is my happy place, and besides, I’ve finally become a huge soccer fan!
What is an overlooked aspect of DEI? The industry is coming to realize what has always been true: DEI is not just the right thing to do, but it’s good for business. We find ourselves in an increasingly competitive landscape when it comes to finding and telling stories, so the more we embrace stories and storytellers who haven’t historically been heard, the more we’re able to widen our lens. Smart companies can do the right thing because it’s the right thing and because it’s the right thing for their bottom line.
What practices should be adopted to make the hiring process more inclusive? To me, this starts with something that should be an obvious priority for every company that wants to be inclusive: diversity in the room. We need more diverse candidates involved as recruiters, taking part in the interview process and, crucially, getting a seat in the room when the ultimate decisions are made. It’s not enough to have a few token interviews. To be inclusive means not just hiring diversity—it means being inclusive in terms of who has influence in the hiring process.
How have attitudes about DEI changed since you began your career? As my career has spanned from local journalism to global journalism and now across the broader entertainment business, I’d sum things up today like this: the best of times, the worst of times. I do think DEI is a genuine priority for some companies, and I find hope when I see young people who look like me (or like I did a few years ago!) working their way up the ranks.
At the same time, when I reflect on my own experience, I look at diversity programs being cut, and I’m worried about where we go next. When I was starting my career, I benefited greatly from the minority training initiative at what was then Cap Cities, a program that taught me so much and gave me the confidence — and access — to learn the business and push my way through open doors. And I’ve been fortunate to have mentors who truly cared about me at so many meaningful moments in my career. I don’t know where I’d be without programs and people who made it a priority to help diverse talent. So, I worry for the next generation of talented people of color who could be deprived of the opportunities I had.