Meeri Park Cunniff

Cunniff handles linear and cross-platform scheduling, long-term planning and program acquisitions for E!—and has been especially busy as the network evolves its news entertainment strategy with a bath of new shows. “We need deeper pipelines of incoming talent, which means being involved early in the process,” she says. “Making sure we are investing in campus to career programs so broader populations are aware of the opportunities available within this industry.”

What does your company/organization do to ensure all employees feel included?
I’m fortunate to work for a large company that focuses on many aspects of inclusion. It’s important to have support systems in place with managers, forums for employees to be heard, and space for people to grow. NBCU has focused a lot on feedback and making sure that managers are sharing it regularly and not just for mandatory performance reviews. It’s important for employees to know that their managers want them to succeed—and if we want them to grow, they need to know what and when they are doing well and when and how to course correct. But just as importantly, the organization solicits feedback from employees annually in a very detailed, comprehensive survey. I’ve been impressed by how seriously we take that feedback and how much of it is addressed directly. We also have a phenomenal Talent Lab that focuses on professional development at all levels. Some of my favorite experiences at NBCU have been through the Talent Lab. And then there are the numerous employee resource groups—and they are very active and provide many opportunities for connection and networking.

How can diversity be better incorporated into the recruiting process?
We need deeper pipelines of incoming talent, which means being involved early in the process. Making sure we are investing in campus to career programs so broader populations are aware of the opportunities available within this industry. And being mindful of how we fill our internships and associates programs – those experiences are critical for entry level candidates. I also believe we tend to gravitate towards people and situations that are comfortable and familiar which doesn’t always align with increasing the diversity of our new hires. Mixing up the recruiting process by expanding the feedback circle to a wider and more diverse group of interviewers allows you to get many different perspectives on prospective candidatesand may yield different results.

Can you share a successful diversity program at your company or one you’ve observed at another company or organization?
I was very fortunate to participate in NAMIC’s Executive Leadership Development Program. It was such a thoughtfully designed program that really allowed me to focus on areas where I needed to grow stronger. It made me so much more aware of the invisible challenges that I face as a woman of color in this industry. It gave me a safe forum to discuss those issues and get feedback and support from my peers and faculty who had similar experiences. And most importantly, it introduced me to an incredible group of people from across the industry who continue to be closely connected through that shared experience today.

What questions is the industry not yet asking in its efforts to be more diverse and inclusive that it should be?
I think that we need to constantly remind ourselves and our organizations why diversity is critical to the success of the business. Unless our leaders really believe that diversity is tied to business success, it’s too easy to de-prioritize and settle for safe, familiar and more of the same. Because increasing & improving diversity is challenging and our business is challenging. And when everything is challenging, it’s human nature to default to something that feels easy and safe. We are in the business of aggregating and engaging audiences and those audiences are growing increasingly diverse. It’s so important for us to have an employee population that reflects the audience. We need that diversity of experience and perspective informing the work we do if we want to understand and connect with audiences in authentic and meaningful ways. We need to keep asking why so we can remind everyone and ourselves that diversity is not just nice to have, it’s absolutely necessary in order for us to win.

Which current television show/s best embrace diversity?
Happily, there are so many right now. “This Is Us,” “The Good Place,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Master of None,” “Insecure,” “Black-ish,” to name a few.

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