Why Amber Tamblyn's Plea To Disney To Add Women Of Colour To Their Board Is Crucial

Actor, director, and writer Amber Tamblyn has established herself as an activist and face of the Times Up movement, first with her open letter to James Woods, followed by a powerful op/ed in The New York Times. Her Twitter feed is a tireless thread of support for the women who have spoken out against abusers, and yesterday she addressed the Walt Disney corporation with a public plea to add women of colour to their board.
She wrote to the company and CEO Robert Iger, "Hi @Disney and @RobertIger . It looks like you’re about to have two seats open on your board of directors. We call on you to choose women of colour for these seats. Be a shining example for your fellow studios. We’re watching."
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Disney, to their credit, promptly responded with a tweet explaining their position, which seems to be a great one on the surface, writing, "Disney is leading the way. Seventy percent of the seats on Disney's board of directors are held by women and minority business leaders."
A look at the company's page about their board of directors shows that to be true, with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Potbelly Sandwiches CEO Aylwin Lewis the most recognisable. However, there are no women of colour on the board, and the upper management team (like the heads of communication, finance, HR, etc.) also shown on the page appear to all be white.
Speaking to Refinery29 in October, Tamblyn echoed the sentiment she shared with Disney, explaining, "Women as a whole have been marginalised throughout time and American history, but if you look at women of colour in the business — there was no Shonda Rhimes in the '80s. There was no Shonda Rhimes in the '90s. It’s so incredible to me that there is so much more entertainment, films, and television, not only with women of colour, but with women across the board, both in front and behind the camera."
A company's board of directors is an important place to look for diversity, because it impacts so much. The board is made up of a group of outside individuals that are elected as (or to act as) representatives of the stockholders to establish corporate management related policies and to make decisions on major company issues. Essentially, they set a tone for how a company operates, and they answer to the shareholders, not the CEO and management team. It's a powerful role, and one that has an opportunity to make a lasting impact.
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Of course, on Tamblyn's tweet, the comments are filled with the phrase we've all heard a million times, "Hire the best person for the job." While that sounds great in an ideal world, that is rarely the reality in the current business world.
Research published by the American Sociological Association shows that when it comes to choosing job candidates, employers place a heavy emphasis on finding people who are similar to them, and whose company they enjoy.
And, according to Kellogg School of Management professor Lauren Rivera, drawing from hundreds of interviews and observation of interviews, found that hiring managers want recruits who have the potential to be friends.
"Hiring is more than just a process of skills sorting," writes Rivera. "It is also a process of cultural matching between candidates, evaluators, and firms. Employers sought candidates who were not only competent but culturally similar to themselves."
Teams that include people from different backgrounds and experiences come up with more creative ideas and methods of solving problems. There is a direct correlation between being around people who are different than you encouraging bigger and better thinking.
“The more your network includes individuals from different cultural backgrounds, the more you will be creatively stimulated by different ideas and perspectives," writes Harvard Business School professor Roy Y.J. Chua. "Importantly, these ideas do not necessarily come from the network members who are culturally different from you.”
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