VFXV: In service of creating an inclusive work environment for your employees, what are some of the programs and initiatives offered by your company?
Leona Frank, Autodesk: We have nine “Employee Resource Groups,” including groups for Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse employees, because we want everyone to feel represented and a sense of inclusion. Anyone can join the groups as allies – you don’t have to be a member of that community. And because running these employee-led groups takes considerable volunteer time, we provide stipends for that important labor and emotional labor, in recognition of our employee dedication, and ensure that each group has the support of an executive sponsor.
Janet Lewin, ILM/Lucasfilm: When I was coming up the industry, there wasn’t a language for what it took to develop the confidence and competencies to self-advocate and help navigate obstacles in the male-dominated industry. So, we are really investing in tools to help underrepresented groups and women specifically. “Promote Her” was piloted at ILM and focuses on teaching ‘soft skills’ – how to advocate for yourself, raise your hand for consideration, network, and combat that sense of imposter syndrome.
Nina Stille, Intel: We offer a wonderful service to all employees, a confidential “Warm Line,” staffed by advisors trained in resilience, who are available to provide counsel and discuss challenges and solutions. We also have our “Talent Keepers” program, aimed at engaging mid-level Black employees in the U.S. and Costa Rica and their managers. It helps employees with career empowerment and it fosters best practices for managers. Since the tracks ultimately merge, the co-creation of career development plans by employees and their supervisors has resulted in higher employee promotions rates and less race and gender bias in management practices.
Barbara Marshall, HP: We are quite bold in the sustainability and diversity realms; our goal is to be the most sustainable and just global technology company. Our strategy is built around three pillars – climate action, human rights and digital equity – interlinked and with specific programs. The company is very transparent in sharing our progress to meet our goals of achieving gender parity in 2023 and doubling the number of Black executives by 2025. I’m proud that our Board is already 46% women and that we have had two female CEOs, which is unique for a blue-chip, publicly-traded company.
VFXV: You are all committed to building the pipeline to bring up new talent. What are you doing and what needs to be done in the areas of recruitment and outreach to help bring diverse voices to the forefront?
Janet Muswell Hamilton, HBO: We are making strides, but to create that kind of rich workforce, we need to invest more in early education to middle school and high school students. We all need to do more to showcase that these kinds of jobs in VFX and entertainment exist, that they are exciting and viable careers, demystify our industry and lower the bar for entry. We need to go beyond the schools where we tend to cultivate almost exclusively white men and expand our horizons in every aspect. I also appreciate the renewed focus I’m seeing in programs that look at training and retraining people who may have left the workforce, are looking to transfer from another industry or have valuable lived experience – like the work we are doing in the VES Education Committee to develop new career pathways for veterans.
Nina Stille, Intel: I’m proud of our “Relaunch Your Career” program, which we initially piloted in 2019 to help people who took a career break (parents, caregivers) to re-enter the workforce. This is an untapped and highly experienced workforce, often overlooked because of a break in their résumé, but rich in unique and valuable soft skills. In 2022, we hired 80 contractors for a 16-20 week ‘return-ship’; 87% of those people were converted to full-time roles and 88% of those converted were women and people from underrepresented communities. We are proud of the results and want to keep investing in efforts like these. We also have deep ties to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and partner with these academic institutions and organizations like AfroTech and Lesbians Who Tech to help identify and develop talent that encompasses a diverse spectrum of voices and experience.