Hollywood union faces DEI challenges

HR leaders echo the struggle to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace

Hollywood union faces DEI challenges

The former leader of a Hollywood union’s diversity committee has gone public with the struggles she and her cohorts faced in the wake of the racial protests in the summer of 2020.

Brittny Chapman, who was recruited to spearhead the committee for Motion Picture Costumers Local 705, which represents thousands of Hollywood costume workers, resigned just four months into her role, as did her three co-chairs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

HR leaders are sure to relate to the issues the group experienced. For example, the union hired a consulting firm in July to draft questions for an anonymous survey of the membership’s racial demographics, but the surveys weren’t sent to members until October, Chapman said. Furthermore, Chapman said union leaders ignored emails she sent asking about the status of the survey. Union leaders also rejected a request to translate the survey into Spanish and other languages.

Here's the kicker: the survey results weren’t released until one year later.

Union officials blamed the delay on a variety of reasons, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, elections, and technical issues. Heated contract negotiations also played a role, as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the umbrella union for Local 705, spent much of 2021 fighting for a new contract with Hollywood studios. As part of the deal, producers agreed to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday and to form an internship program for underrepresented workers, LA Times reported.

WATCH: How can HR leaders encourage discussions around DEI?

Chapman and her co-chairs say they were also asked to find diverse crew members regardless of their knowledge, skills or experience. Because of this, it was easy to feel tokenized, said co-chair Laura Wong.

“It’s really difficult to volunteer your limited free time for this work when you feel like you have no support,” Wong told the LA Times. “I became the token Asian for every diversity issue and felt like I was being asked to speak for every Asian person.”

While many organizations in the United States have made diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) commitments over the past two years, few have yet to make meaningful progress. That’s the main takeaway from the 2022 Workplace DEI Report by Culture Amp, a platform that helps companies improve employee engagement, retention and performance.

Only 34% of HR leaders reported having enough resources to support their DEI initiatives. Meanwhile, only 40% of organizations are conducting DEI-specific surveys. While half of surveyed companies reported having a DEI mission statement, only 49% have a strategic diversity plan in place. These are both crucial steps in creating the organizational alignment necessary to create lasting, structural change, says Aubrey Blanche, senior director of equitable design, product and people at Culture Amp.

“While many companies believe that DEI is valuable, organizations are often not providing adequate resources, or aren’t strategically investing in DEI at the right levels to create significant change,” Blanche told HRD. “This means that companies are largely performing, rather than creating, DEI.”

Culture Amp is used by more than 5,000 organizations, including Nasdaq, Oracle and McDonald’s, with more than 25 million employees. California tech heavyweights AirBnB, Salesforce and Slack also rely upon the platform.

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