Since June 2023, six Black women executives who held prominent roles at major Hollywood studios have left their posts. Several of the women oversaw DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) departments, which would have allowed them to directly impact hiring practices and open the door for other qualified Black women who would not have opportunities in the white, male-dominated space.
Included in the mass exodus is Karen Horne who led DEI efforts at Warner Bros. Discovery; Jeanell English, executive VP of impact and inclusion at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences; Vernā Myers, head of inclusion at Netflix; LaTondra Newton, chief diversity officer and senior VP at Disney; Terra Potts, VP of worldwide marketing at Warner Bros and Joanna Abeyie, the BBC’s creative diversity director. According to sources, several other BIPOC executives are expected to lose their positions in the near future.
In the aftermath of these recent departures, many have accused the Hollywood studios of not giving Black women equal opportunities to enact change in their respective roles. The massive loss of these accomplished Black professionals is a stark contrast to major companies that promised more diversity, the inclusion of women of color and other DEI-related matters.
“I always say that it is so easy to make public statements and commitments because no one will eventually check if you’re committed to the things that you committed to,” Ayas said.
“I can say: ‘I will be fully vegan by 2025’ because no one will ever call me in 2025 and ask me if I’m actually fully vegan. And that’s really what is going on here. In 2020, a lot of companies made big commitments and big statements around DEI roles and goals. And as we are observing a turning of that tide, I think it’s very timely that we actually look into companies to see if they have kept up with those big statements they made,” she continued.
Many have also argued that this Hollywood mass exodus of Black women executives correlates with the Supreme Court's decision to strike down affirmative action and its upcoming impact on Black women in the workforce.
One anonymous former executive claims the report coincides with the experience of Black women in management.
“Black women are not allowed to be difficult, vulnerable, weak or challenging. We must be perfect, have unlimited understanding, and continuously validate a white person’s guilt and empty gestures on how we’re fixing things. It’s exhausting, and I’m f**king tired,” said the former executive.