As the strategic lead for Paramount’s Office of Global Inclusion for International Markets, Wincie Knight works alongside both internal and external stakeholders to implement initiatives that embed diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and belonging within the company’s strategic priorities.
She explains why people are her passion and why DEI at Paramount is no box ticking enterprise and why she wants the wider IBC audience – as well as the specific audience at her Sunday Changemakers session Committing to inclusion: How to keep the momentum going? - to understand that operating within an inclusive framework propels innovation forward.
The M&E industry has made a (belated) start on inclusion. Can you give us your opinion on how far it has to go?
First of all, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to inclusion, especially in the media and entertainment industry, which for decades, has been perceived as far behind in this area of focus. While there has been a radical racial awakening, with inequalities being brought to light across industries, I’m proud to work for an organisation that has focused on inclusion long before the murder of George Floyd.
We have been dedicated to fostering a culture of inclusiveness for a long time, one which holds leadership accountable for creating, developing, promoting, and championing a diverse, multicultural workforce where all employees can achieve and contribute to the company’s success. Our values are Optimism & Determination, Inclusivity & Collaboration, and Agility & Adaptability – and these are the guiding pillars for all we do.
Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) has been part of our company’s DNA from the very beginning, but truly came to life long ago, beginning with the early days of BET and the 2005 launch of LOGO TV, the first TV channel dedicated to LGBTQ+ content. More recently, our 2020 “No Diversity, No Commission” pledge has made a tremendous impact on how we do business, and just last year we launched Israel’s First Transgender Acting School through Ananey, Paramount’s Tel Aviv-based Studio.
DE&I is key in creating a sense of belonging among employees, partners and creatives, but it takes time. More than 20 years into our journey, we understand that change does not happen overnight, but we remain steadfast in our commitment and intentional in our approach to making a difference both on and off screen.
Is there any research which can quantity the success of inclusion and representation in the industry?
We are continually learning how to improve upon our DE&I efforts by measuring with data driven analysis, engaging leaders and listening to our employees. At Paramount, our goal is to work against targets rather the quotas, focusing on how to enhance and serve underrepresented groups.
When it comes to our internal efforts, our bi-annual global Gallup survey confidentially measures employee engagement and serves as a great data-driven tool to see what we’re doing well, and where we need to improve. On the content side, our Content for Change programs use robust data and insights to inform the content we create, measure diversity in front and behind the camera, and provide target goals for the writer’s room. And we help enhance representation across the entertainment landscape through our various pipeline programs that provide doorways for underrepresented talent to enter the industry.
Finally, it is worth mentioning Paramount’s global study “Reflecting Me”, which explores how consumers around the world feel about representation on TV shows and movies. This project included a survey of over 15,000 people aged 13-49 in 15 countries around the world.
The study confirms representation in entertainment has the power to influence how people and groups are perceived in everyday life. Being represented poorly is painful to experience. One-dimensional representation isn’t good enough. Audiences need to see the uniqueness and complexity of diverse characters. Diverse and authentic representation is meaningful to audiences - and globally, people want change.
How do you change a company culture from a tick box mentality to one which puts diversity, inclusion and equality at the core of its operations?
DE&I is a long and shared journey that starts at the top. Senior leaders and executives must first embrace this culture in order to truly foster a sense of belonging amongst their teams. Having leaders who fundamentally care and want to make a difference is key.
At Paramount, we avoid the “tick box mentality”, because inclusion is always top of mind, ongoing and iterative; in fact, Inclusion is Paramount, and is a priority for our Paramount’s Board and senior leaders across the company. We make sure to align our strategies to our pillars: Leadership Engagement, Employee Investment, Workplace Initiatives, Content Diversification and Community Linkages. This creates a strong framework for our efforts towards diversity, representation and inclusion across the company.
In 2018 we launched our first Inclusion Week in the UK, with a week dedicated to DE&I centred meetings, workshops and events. Since then, this initiative has expanded globally, and serves as our annual opportunity to learn from thought leaders, celebrate our differences and truly promote the value of creating an inclusive culture.
Most recently, we launched Paramount’s Impact Series, a new initiative created earlier this year in partnership with the Office of Global Inclusion, that focuses on cultivating equity and leadership across the organization through ongoing programming. To date, we’ve hosted candid panel discussions featuring our female leaders on topics from collaboration to wellbeing across Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Italy, Canada and the UK.
Last but not least, the program I am most proud of is our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Here in Amsterdam, we recently launched our Proud ERG, which focuses on empowering the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. We also have ParentHood, which supports parents and caregivers, RISE, to celebrate Next Gen Leaders, WOMEN+, empowering women across the workplace.
I personally launched our Fusion ERG in the UK. This cultural melting pot serves as a combination of all of Paramount’s culture, race and ethnicity centered ERGs, where we celebrate everything from Lunar New Year to Black History Month, Hanukkah to Diwali, and much more.
If you are making a global blockbuster feature, how should executives be weighing up storylines with LGBTQIA+ characters (or featuring, say, a trans actor) against the possible censorship, negative publicity and loss of revenue in key international territories?
Each market presents its own unique challenges and opportunities, and we understand we have to be surgical and intentional in our approach. While we carefully abide by the laws in each of our markets, we continue to operate in a way that is true to our company values.
We are proud of a number of programs and initiatives that we’ve been able to launch, including the Nickelodeon Writers and Artist Program, which continues our commitment to inclusive talent pipeline and diverse representation for creators and content they produce. Our Supplier Diversity Chain Program is another fantastic initiative that strengthens our partnerships with diverse suppliers, focused on businesses owned by women, minorities, LGBTQ+ people, veterans and those with disabilities.
As mentioned, DE&I is in our DNA, and you can see it in everything we do, in every market we operate.
What are the key messages you want to communicate to the IBC audience?
IBC put innovation at the centre stage every year, so I think it’s important to underline that innovation is an output of inclusive leadership. Fostering an inclusive culture ensures the diversity of thinking which is necessary to create something really game-changing, innovative. I want the IBC audience to walk away from my presentation with the understanding that operating within an inclusive framework helps innovation move forward. It is also a journey that takes time. Change will not happen overnight, so don’t get frustrated if you think you are not moving quick enough. As long as you have people and partners in your corner that believe in the values of DE&I, you are moving in the right direction.
What 3 things should all M&E companies be doing to ensure greater equality, diversity and inclusivity?
Always remind their people to be their authentic selves - create and foster a culture of inclusion
Always ask “whose voice is missing?”
If you give someone a seat at the table, make sure they have all the tableware and they feel comfortable to speak up!
What gets you up in the morning? What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about people! What gets me up every morning and makes me feel happy to go to work every day is the desire to create a culture where everyone feels like they belong.
Join Wincie Knight in Conversation: Committing to inclusion: How to keep the momentum going? at IBC2023 on 18-Sep-2023 11:00– 11:30