White oversaw production on all four new Lifetime movies based on author V.C. Andrews’ Casteel Family in a movie event series that sizzled for the network this summer. It’s just the latest project to come under her careful and creative watch. During the past year she also oversaw the holiday-themed movie slate for “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime,” which propelled the network to growth within the coveted W25-54 demo, among others. White doesn’t understand why being diverse and inclusive is so difficult for the industry. “Ava DuVernay managed to hire all women (and many of color) on her first TV series,” she says. “It’s possible.”
How can diversity be better incorporated into the recruiting process?
As the industry grows to producing content on an even more global scale, that will only succeed by better hiring practices. Companies should look to partnering not only with diverse and inclusive organizations but executives and creatives that have proven that commitment in their own hiring practices. And then hold yourself accountable, like Lifetime’s Broader Focus initiative. Additionally tapping internal talent at all levels for advice and guidance is a great place to start. The traditional recruiting practices have to evolve. I also believe every company should have mentorship programs, and if they don’t any executive should commit to doing that on their own.
What questions is the industry not yet asking in its efforts to be more diverse and inclusive that it should be?
I feel the industry continues to ignore the obvious question—why is this so difficult? It simply shouldn’t be. As an industry we talk about the issue all the time. We write articles, have panels, awards, etc. about how committed we are to diversity and inclusiveness. Yet we still hear the narrative that we can’t find executives/writers/directors/producers of color. Or they’re not experienced enough, connected enough, there’s always an asterisk. Ava DuVernay managed to hire all women (and many of color) on her first TV series. It’s possible. Anyone in a position of power simply needs to do better and keep it top of mind.
Which current television show/s best embrace diversity?
There have been some true standout shows this past year that embrace and celebrate diversity and inclusiveness both in front of and behind the camera. Shows that are creatively stunning and can also back up the process in how they were made. There are three that standout the most for me: “Pose,” “When They See Us” and “Surviving R. Kelly” (shepherded by my amazing colleague Brie Bryant). All three of these shows amplified voices that were not only unheard but were deliberately silenced. Voices that had been shouting for decades when no one would listen. They put a spotlight on communities and cultures and allowed the people within to tell their stories. Most importantly they created the shows with authenticity and trusted that the audience would come. They didn’t compromise. They’re all examples of what the best of TV can be.