California Legislative Black Caucus Calls Exodus of Black DEI Execs in Hollywood a ‘Troubling Pattern’

“One executive removal could be a fluke, but four more?” Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas says

DEI EXEC STORY Photo credit: Christopher Smith
(Credit: Christopher Smith)

In a press conference Thursday morning, the California Legislative Black Caucus demanded answers from Hollywood studios about the exodus of several Black female Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) executives, which the group described as “a troubling pattern.”

They were referring to a wave of sudden exits of executives that kicked off June 20 when Disney’s chief diversity officer and senior vice president Latondra Newton, left, according to Disney, to pursue “other endeavors.”

Then on June 28, Netflix announced that Vernā Myers, head of inclusion strategy, will leave the role in September after five years in the job in order to focus attention on her consulting company, The Vernā Myers Company.

The next day, Warner Bros. Discovery laid off SVP of diversity, equity and inclusion Karen Horne, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s EVP of Impact and Inclusion Jeanell English stepped down. Horne joined WBD in March 2020, while English’s role was created by Academy CEO Bill Kramer in July 2022.

“One executive removal could be a fluke, but four more? And we’re hearing more are to come. This is a troubling pattern. A pattern that suggests diversity, equity and inclusion is no longer a priority at the highest levels of the film industry, where decisions are made and institutional change happens,” Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) said.

Smallwood-Cuevas also said it was troubling that many of the exits happened after the California legislature extended the film and TV tax credit.

“It is a slap in the face of not only women. It’s a slap in the face for people of color,” assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson), said.

Also present were Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Sen. Dave Min (D-Orange County), Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley), assemblymember Phil Tin (D-San Francisco) and assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood).

Watch the video of the press conference here.