How diverse are Hollywood talent agencies? One leading player shares its numbers
Following the protests over the murder of George Floyd, talent agencies and other Hollywood institutions faced their own reckoning over systemic racism and vowed to diversify their employee ranks.
So how are they doing two years later? That’s hard to say because most of the major agencies have yet to publicly disclose the racial and gender breakdowns of their staffs.
One exception is Beverly Hills-based entertainment and media business Endeavor. The owner of talent agency WME this week disclosed a detailed breakdown of its 7,000-person staff by gender and race for a second consecutive year.
The results, shared with The Times, show that the company has made some strides compared to a year ago but, like other media and entertainment businesses, has a ways to go.
Of the employees surveyed, 56.9% identified as male in 2021, with men comprising an even larger majority of leadership roles (65.4%), though down slightly from 2020.
The percentage of female employees was about flat last year (42.6%) compared with 2020. Women in leadership roles improved 3% from 2020, as more than half of the company’s 2,013 new hires last year identified as women, the company said.
In the U.S., 64.8% of its roughly 4,500-person staff was white and so was 75.4% of its leadership, Endeavor said.
But the company experienced modest gains in representation by people of color on its U.S. staff, with Hispanic and Latinx staffers increasing 1.1 percentage points to 10.9%; Black employees increasing 1.6 percentage points to 8.7%; and Asian American staffers up 0.7 percentage points to 7.2% compared to 2020.
Despite the gains, the numbers are mostly well below national population levels. In the U.S., Latinos represent 18.7% of the population, Black residents comprise 12.4% and Asians make up 6%, according to the U.S. Census’ 2020 count.
Endeavor executives concede they have work to do but say that disclosing internal data, which was shared with employees this week, is an important step.
“It was really important for us to start to be just more accountable because everyone can have these big goals and things that they say they’re going to do,” said Romola Ratnam, head of impact and inclusion. “It’s a really useful tool, and if a company is serious about this work, I would recommend them considering it because it’s a really great way to hold yourself accountable and keep moving.”
A review of senior leadership at the six major media companies shows that the top ranks remain overwhelmingly white.
Endeavor has been working with Color of Change and WME client Michael B. Jordan as part of its #ChangeHollywood initiative to provide solutions to racial justice, support antiracist content and invest in authentic Black stories and talent.
In 2020, Endeavor pledged to release its diversity data, work with colleges to recruit people from underrepresented communities, train its script readers to flag concerning bias and scale up its virtual industry education programs to help people break into the entertainment industry. Endeavor also has implemented an inclusion rider for its fashion productions, including during New York Fashion Week.
The company’s goal is to increase the percentage of employees of color in the U.S. to 35% by 2024, up from the current level of 30%.
Endeavor plans to implement additional efforts to improve diversity and inclusion, including setting up a structure to track its progress; including at least two candidates from underrepresented groups before filling open roles for external job postings; and having dedicated signing targets for underrepresented groups.
“Upending systems and processes takes time, but it’s the surest path to real, sustainable change,” Endeavor President Mark Shapiro said in a statement. “While we still have a lot of work to do, we’re proud of the steps we’ve taken to move closer to representation that better reflects the communities in which we live and work.”
Current and former employees of ICM Partners allege that the talent agency tolerated harassment and misconduct toward women and people of color.
Agents play a vital role in securing coveted jobs for Hollywood talent. But in recent years, representation agencies and management firms have been criticized for not being diverse enough, and some have been called out for how they treat people of color on staff.
Some agents, hoping to speed up solutions to Hollywood’s diversity problems, have gone on to lead newer management firms focused on helping underrepresented communities.
Other major talent agencies have said they are implementing plans to diversify their workforce and the entertainment industry by partnering with different organizations, through donations and by stepping up recruitment efforts.
Beverly Hills-based UTA said in 2021 it promoted more than 50 people across 20 departments, with nearly 60% identifying as women and one-third as people of color. Its other efforts included raising the minimum hourly wage to $22 in 2020, which at the time was the highest of any major agency.
In 2020, CAA established a cultural business strategy group to drive business and creative growth opportunities for its diverse clients. The Century City firm has a female-majority board that oversees day-to-day management and has programs internally to help elevate next-generation agents, executives and interns.
But, so far, none of Endeavor’s rivals have publicly disclosed similar companywide racial and demographic data.
Kelle Rozell, Color of Change’s chief marketing and storytelling officer, said she would like to see that change.
“Making these commitments and laying out roadmaps, I think the key to it is the transparency,” Rozell said. “That’s really where the accountability begins. So without doing that, it kind of is a sign that maybe the intentionality is not really there.”
Former WME partner and talent agent Phillip Sun recently launched his own management firm M88, with plans to push for more inclusive storytelling in Holllywood.
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.