By Nadya Ichinomiya, Director, Information Technology, Television Marketing, Sony Pictures Entertainment –
Once upon a time a clever, apocryphal sage intoned with solemn expectation: “Give a person a fish, feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish and you’ll feed them for life.”
If you’re reading this essay, chances are you have a resume as long as the arm of a small child. Honestly, we’re not worried about you. You’ve worked hard, you’ve “checked your privilege,” you’ve wounded the dragons of discrimination and you’ve parlayed your degree(s) into a comfortable standard of living.
You don’t have to be a social scientist to figure out that as we diversify the ranks of senior leadership, hiring practices will inevitably reflect the changing demography. Diversity is an ongoing endeavor and as we reach our laudable goal, we don’t want to have left any thumbprints on the scale.
We want the next generation to have earned their rightful place in their professions by dint of competency and labor. It’s to the advantage of the entire M&E industry to strengthen our collective bench, so to speak, with a diverse workforce, and we all have a vested interest in directing students in underutilized communities toward careers in entertainment and technology.
But let’s face it, not all school districts (or work environments) are created equal in terms of teaching students about these career paths or developing the skills students need to pursue jobs here.
If you think your hefty property taxes are doing the heavy lifting, think again. The teachers, our overworked, underpaid civil servants who are on the frontline each day, should not have to beg parents to donate notebooks and pencils to their classrooms! And we all know that the American public has little appetite for electing public officials advocating for higher taxes and a thorough redistribution of resources.
It’s down to us, whether you have kids or not, to pick up the slack. It’s time to take matters into our own hands.
If we claim to be serious about redressing the imbalances in our workplaces and creating opportunity for everyone, then lip service and online petitions are not enough.
A call to arms
What we are advocating here is nothing short of a radical claim on your leisure time: A professional Peace Corps, if you will. We are demanding of you to get your thick skin in the game and offer your expertise to students in underutilized communities. To send the elevator down in your workplaces.
If you’re a coder, teach code. A marketer, teach marketing. A leader, mentor emerging leaders. A data scientist, tutor … whatever the heck you do, but you get the idea.
All of us spend so much of our time staring into our screens shopping for T-shirts, playing video games, uploading vacation pics, and looking up old boyfriends. If we had a nickel for every hour we spent binge watching forgettable crime thrillers we could all retire to Ibiza tomorrow. Don’t start saying you don’t have the bandwidth. We follow you on Facebook and we see how often you post!
Remember the advertising slogan from the ‘80’s from the almond growers: “A can a week is all we ask”? Well, an hour a week is all we ask. Out of the 168 hours in a week, can you spend an hour to tutor a kid, mentor a colleague, or pass on your expertise? Can you accept that challenge? That’s four hours a month. Given 720 hours in a 30-day month, that’s only 0.6 percent of your time. That’s what we mean by “grow the pipeline, in (almost) no time.”
If you’re really serious about diversity, inclusion and equality, then start growing the pipeline. Be a mensch, strengthen the bench. Let’s not wait for the government to solve the problem. Let’s begin accruing individual acts of teaching, mentoring and training, in our schools, colleges and workplaces. Let’s get to those kids when they’re young so that by the time they’re getting their college apps ready they’ll not only know how to cast, they’ll also be able to sear, sauté or make sushi out of that flounder.
If everyone who reads this spends an hour a week growing the pipeline, you (and I mean YOU) are going to create the most badass army of fisherpeople. We might even need a bigger boat!