HBO Diversity Program Sparks Outrage After Women, Minorities Are Shut Out

Potential applicants are angry over the “HBOAccess” website crashing, plus a cap of 1,000 entries and lack of demographic questions

Female and minority writers are taking to social media to vent their frustrations with HBO, after an application for a diversity fellowship at the network shut out many hopefuls.

HBOAccess, a writing fellowship that offers to mentor emerging talent, opened for applicant submissions online on March 4 — but an entry cap of 1,000 entries, technical issues with the website and lack of a meaningful way to qualify diversity has brought heat on the initiative.

“It’s sadly ironic that so many diverse & female writers were shut out of the #hboaccess program & couldn’t submit,” wrote Twitter user @amandapendo.

“First does not mean most qualified. With a cap that small #hboaccess should have been limited to diverse represented writers,” said @KayMarvin.

HBO used popular film festival submissions portal Withoutabox to receive entries, which is usually successful, and the Sundance Film Festival used the same service to solicit its 2015 festival entries. But HBO’s submission pages were slow to load, crashed completely or were rendered with errant HTML code.


“The site was unable to handle the volume of activity at the time of launch. Without A Box worked quickly to resolve the issue, but due to the overwhelming number of applicants the site is moving slowly. In response to the demand for the program, HBO will expand the number of applicants it will review and grant waivers to some who were unable to access the site at the time of launch,” HBO said in a statement.

“Applicants may request a waiver by sending an email to with REQUEST FOR WAIVER in the subject line. Waivers will be granted on a first come basis until the new cap is reached.”

For those who were able to make it through to the application page, the online forms did not ask questions that would determine eligibility on the basis of diversity.

“There was no demographic field for race or gender,” one applicant told TheWrap.

Further responses to #HBOAccess problems include: