WarnerMedia to Add Chief Diversity Officer to Executive Ranks

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WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey

CEO John Stankey acknowledged that at a company town hall he'd been asked "about the lack of women and diversity onstage," referring to top executives.

As AT&T leadership looks to reorganize its WarnerMedia entertainment assets after closing its $85 billion-$105 billion acquisition, the company is aiming to add a chief diversity and inclusion officer to its executive ranks. 

WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey wrote in a memo to employees on March 20 that the conglomerate will be hiring a new executive who "will help ensure our business encourages and values diverse perspectives, supports the unique voices of the talent we work with, and is reflected in the world-class content we create."

Stankey acknowledged in the memo that at a company town hall he'd been asked "about the lack of women and diversity onstage" referring to top executives named to leadership positions in the shake-up. 

On March 4, WarnerMedia unveiled a restructuring of top executives that included former NBC exec Bob Greenblatt being named chairman of entertainment and direct-to-consumer offerings, including HBO and Turner. Jeff Zucker was named chairman of news and sports in addition to his title as president of CNN. 

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who had been elevated at the same time to oversee Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang and Turner Classic Movies, resigned from the company on March 18.

Tsujihara's resignation arrived just short of two weeks after The Hollywood Reporter published a story revealing text messages between the executive and an actress, Charlotte Kirk, that showed Tsujihara pushing for auditions for the actress, whom he was having an apparent sexual relationship with. An outside law firm continues to investigate. 

Until a permanent replacement is found for Tsujihara, an interim leadership team was created. Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group chairman; Peter Roth, Warner Bros. Television Group president and CCO; and Kim Williams, Warner Bros. Entertainment executive vp and CFO, will take over Tsujihara's duties. 

The to-be-added role of diversity and inclusion officer follows a WarnerMedia inclusion initiative launched in September 2018 "to ensure that diverse actors and crew members are considered for film, television and other projects," as the company announced at the time. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the Stankey memo on Thursday. 

John Stankey's March 20 note to employees is below: 

I wanted to take a moment to update you on our organizational design and planning. At the recent Global Town Hall meeting, we talked about the importance of breaking down the artificial silos that exist between our businesses, bringing us closer together. We can be immeasurably stronger and better when we are truly united and working together.

In that spirit, the senior management team has put together principles to help guide us as we continue to transform the company within the structure we laid out earlier this month. Our goals are to ensure our decision making is nimble, preserve creative and talent relationship autonomy, remove duplication where it makes business sense and design the organization to enable greater global operations and scale. Ultimately, this will help us focus our efforts on our strategic priorities[link] to drive content creation and innovation in everything that we do.

In the weeks ahead, the senior leadership team will share details on their organizational designs. In the spirit of transparency, we will post all of the related communications from across the various teams on Touchpoint[link] and on the divisional intranet sites. Be on the lookout for updates from your leaders as we go forward. As I’ve mentioned, not all of the corporate and divisional org decisions are on the same schedule, which means that some teams will announce decisions at different times. Please be patient, as this change is not easy but will make us a stronger and more dynamic company moving forward.

Which brings me to our most important asset: our people. I could not be more inspired by the talent that we have across WarnerMedia. You are what drives our company forward, and you are the reason for our success.

During the Global Town Hall meeting, I was asked about the lack of women and diversity on stage. I understand how important this is. In order for WarnerMedia to be the best company we can be, we have to include diverse voices at every level of our business. And while we already have some of the most talented women and diverse executives in the industry, we have more work to do.

First, we must continue to cast a wide net when recruiting both internally and externally, so that we have a diverse pool of candidates to choose from. We know talent comes in all forms, so let’s go find them and bring them to WarnerMedia – and if they are already here, let’s give them a reason to stay and grow with us.

To that end, we need to ensure we’re developing the amazing talent we have to further our diversity and inclusion objectives. As I mentioned at the Town Hall, we have a number initiatives underway. For example, we put in place a new talent review and management process that goes beyond traditional succession planning. It is designed to truly identify our emerging talent and help them grow within our organization – not just within their respective divisions. We want to ensure that our company is a place where the best, brightest and most creative people – of every background and point of view – want to come to work; to contribute, to be heard, and to be fulfilled as we work together to grow and to strengthen our leadership position in the marketplace.

Additionally, in the coming weeks I will add a critical role to my leadership team focused on increasing diversity at all levels and helping to transform our culture to one of even greater inclusion and belonging. The role of Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer will report directly to me and will be aligned with our human resources and communication leaders. This will help ensure our business encourages and values diverse perspectives, supports the unique voices of the talent we work with, and is reflected in the world-class content we create. This isn’t just something that’s nice to do, it is essential to our future success.

There is no silver bullet to get us to where we need to be, but the leaders across our company are committed to working together to make the changes necessary as we build on our foundation towards greater progress. I believe that our new structure will enable us to do even more to achieve these objectives.

As we continue our business transformation, let’s remain focused on creating compelling content for diverse audiences to enjoy and pushing the innovation agenda to improve how our audiences engage with them. Together, we will do this and so much more.