As a member of Weta Digital's Diversity & Inclusion committee, I'm frustrated when calls for diversity online are met by the wails of reactionaries who seem to pine for the days of the Hays Code:
"notHINg bUT Pc CuckS!"
"why is EvERyThING sO woKe?"
"hiRE BY TAlENt, NOT raCe!!""
It's bad enough when these folks can barely hold their pants on over a gender swap which makes absolutely zero impact on a story (looking forward to Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes in Dune), but when they come at you over the makeup of your writing team, you have to wonder where they get the energy.
Lauren Hissrich, showrunner for Netflix's hit fantasy series The Witcher, approaches this situation with a level of tolerance and class that I'm incapable of. Her sarcastically patient schooling of gamergaters over her approach to building a writing team is amazing.
Back in June, she gave an excellent breakdown of her hiring process for the writing staff for The Witcher. It was an overview of a well-reasoned process for hiring a team which will bring both experience and fresh thinking to the table, something that is harder to accomplish than it sounds:
My personal favorite irony to this is her decision to include people in the discussion who oppose inclusion. Lauren is the very soul of diversity & inclusion!
Entertainment giants like Netflix and Disney are leading the way for D&I in its workforce, and they put executive weight behind the effort. Not content with paying lip service to the tenets of D&I, these companies follow up with clear HR policy that shapes practices around hiring, promotion, workplace behaviour, and dispute resolution which favour fairness and equity over seniority and, let's just face it: race and gender.
There's a reason these companies and tens of thousands more small and medium businesses are embracing D&I: It's profitable. Turns out when you're engaged in a creative pursuit, whether it's making a film, a television series, or building technology, having a variety of voices from a variety of perspectives gives way to better solutions with wider appeal.
In VFX, especially as a programmer, it's pretty easy to put together an ethnically diverse team, but finding women, trans, or non-binary people to round out a team can be tough. What can a company do when only dudes are sending in resumes? I'll tell you what you can do:
- Listen to Lauren Hissrich: Learn from her not only why she hires diversely, but how she looks for people and how she evaluates people.
- Listen to trans activists like Auckland-based trans activist and philanthropist Phylesha Brown-Acton: Draft and publicly announce official policy that recognises the right to safety and dignity for trans, non-binary, and female applicants. Let them know that working for you will be safe and will allow them to focus on the work, not on the worry of being judged, held back, ridiculed, or worse.
- Listen to Lauren McCallum of VFX vendor The Mill: It is possible to achieve racial and gender equality and look to equality for the physically disabled.
At the very least, you could look to this dumb graphic, made in anger by yours truly, that outlines the most basic, logical argument: If your talent pool is 30% white dudes and your workforce is 90% white dudes, then you are hiring by race, not talent, and there's no question why: