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Time's Up launches mentorship program to diversify Hollywood's pool of producers and executives

Time's Up launches mentorship program to diversify Hollywood's pool of producers and executives
Time's Up, led by president and CEO Lisa Borders, has launched a mentorship program for people of color and underrepresented groups to become Hollywood producers and executives. (LM Otero / Associated Press)

To make a lasting impact on gender parity in Hollywood, women need to be in the room where it happens.

Time's Up Entertainment announced Friday that the group is launching "Who's in the Room," a new mentorship program designed to increase the presence of people of color and people from other underrepresented groups in the producing and executive ranks across the industry.

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The initiative will be funded by a $500,000 grant from CBS, as part of the $20 million that the network, plagued with multiple accounts of inequity and sexual misconduct, has promised to donate to organizations fighting such issues.

In partnership with seasoned industry veterans, the program will target entry-level positions and assistants primed to transition into junior executive positions. The program will begin with a pilot class of 10 mentees for nine months, followed by two years of 50 mentees each.

While many mentor programs exist throughout Hollywood, this one will offer the benefit of unprecedented engagement from industry mentors, including weekly check-ins and monthly attendance at curriculum events.

Its curriculum will be a mix of industry knowledge — including skills such as understanding the buyer/seller landscape, deal term literacy and the basics of financial modeling — and personal growth lessons through workshops on personal financial planning, public speaking and leadership styles.

Additionally, since most assistant and entry-level positions are low or minimum-wage positions, the program will pilot an innovative financial aid model that can help candidates address needs or access opportunities for advancement. It will provide mentees access to a flexible fund of up to $10,000 per candidate, which can be utilized for professional development opportunities, basic subsidies or emergency relief.

“The fact is that young people are dropping out of the industry because they are not being provided the support to succeed — this program provides them that targeted support,” said Nithya Raman, executive director of Time's Up Entertainment, in a statement. “We thank CBS for funding this important program and feel extraordinarily grateful to have such a committed and talented group of industry leaders lending their time and talent to shape this program.”

Who's in the Room is spearheaded by a coalition of industry veterans, including Jenno Topping (president of film and television at Chernin), Tara Duncan (television executive) and Niija Kuykendall (senior vice president of film production at Warner Bros. Pictures).

“There is nothing short of an urgent need at the moment to have the people who buy, create and promote entertainment content be more representative of the people we serve,” said Topping. “WITR hopes to exponentially change and expand the landscape within five years by aggressively growing the next crop of producer and executive talent.”

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which is housed at and administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, will also receive a $1.5 million contribution from CBS. It will use those funds to continue its work of connecting survivors of workplace sexual harassment and related retaliation with legal and public relations assistance.

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