Mary Collins | What They See Is What They’ll Be
“Now more than ever, I’m aware of how much it meant to me to see a face that resembled mine achieving the highest levels of leadership and accolades, all while reaching back for those following in her footsteps.”
Those words are from Sierra Dawson, compensation specialist at Hearst, talking about Hearst vice president of finance, Jeana Stanley, for a tribute article in the January/February 2021 issue of MFM’s member magazine, The Financial Manager. Stanley died unexpectedly in June of 2020
In addition to her responsibilities at Hearst, Jeana Stanley was treasurer for MFM’s board of directors. She took her MFM obligations seriously, giving generously of her time to help us grow membership, add a Young Professionals committee, and to help us make sure our assumptions for a 2020 virtual conference made sense.
One of Jeana’s final contributions to MFM was when I reached out to her to get her help in determining what, if anything, MFM and BCCA should say in response to the death of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests. I remember telling her that I was embarrassed to be asking her to speak for all of our Black members. As was her nature, Jeana helped me see the question rationally. We ultimately concluded that, as a group offering education for media finance and accounting professionals, our best course would be to address the need to protect journalists risking their lives to get news about the protests to the American public. I continue to be grateful for all Jeana taught me.
Two years ago in this column, I noted that February is Black History Month. Including research from a 2018 McKinsey study that reported findings such as “the most diverse executive teams are 33 percent more likely to outperform peers on profitability” and that companies in the bottom quartile for gender and ethnic diversity are 29 percent more likely to underperform their peer organizations, I asserted that media companies have both the opportunity and obligation to find ways to promote these initiatives across their many platforms.
My 2019 column relied heavily on the findings in a report from UCLA’s Social Sciences department — Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities. It was based on research from the 2015-16 television season and 2016 film production. Two years later, I was curious to see what progress the industry had made.
The most recent UCLA report, issued in early 2020, covers the 2018-19 television season. The good news is that, overall, diversity among actors has improved. That should translate to improved viewership because, as Jessica Wolf writes in her Oct. 22, 2020, summary of the findings for television: “Each Hollywood Diversity Report has further established that audiences value and respond to diversity.” Interestingly, among both white and Black households, top-rated broadcast scripted series tend to feature casts that are “at least 21% minority.” Diversity also appears to drive social media engagement, “figures spiked when the shows had majority-minority casts.”
The bad news is that, at the executive levels, employees are still “overwhelmingly white and male.” In addition, some minority groups have not fared as well as others. “Latinos and Asian Americans remain significantly underrepresented in nearly all industry positions.” When it comes to Native Americans and people of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry, representation is minimal to none. Study co-author and UCLA dean, Darnell Hunt, says, “… the near absence of Native Americans in these jobs is potent evidence that systems of racial erasure continue to exist.”
MFM believes representation matters. That is why we have created the Jeana Stanley Memorial Award. This award will supplement the work being done by Hearst to foster minority internships for media business. It will be awarded to a person or company that both employs a paid intern from the foundation being supported by Hearst and makes other efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. The presentation will include an MFM/BCCA annual conference scholarship, which will allow the intern to get in-depth media business education while making valuable industry connections. The first award will be given during the opening session of Media Finance Focus 2021, being held virtually beginning May 11; the first intern will attend Media Finance Focus 2022.
The media and entertainment industry has disproportionate influence over society’s attitudes, feelings and behaviors. When we take time to embrace and mentor people of color in our business, as Stanley did, good things happen — we foster advancement while combatting stereotypes. Here’s to the time in our country when everyone can clearly see what they can be.
If you would like to learn more about Jeana Stanley and her legacy, I encourage you to read the article written by Hearst’s Tracy Clark and Suzanne Grethen. It is called “A Passionate Force of Nature.” The January/February 2021 issue of TFM will be available to non-members on the MFM website for a few more weeks. After that, we will move it to the members-only area.
Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association. She can be reached at [email protected] and via the association’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.