CBS TV network has “a white problem, a former executive has said in an explosive essay that criticises the company’s lack of diversity and workplace culture.
Writing in Variety, Whitney Davis, a veteran employee of the news and entertainment department at CBS, said she was prompted to leave the company following an investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct made against former CEO Leslie Moonves.
Davis had thought the all forms of discrimination at CBS would be looked into when the accusations against Moonves resulted in the company bringing in external investigators.
She spoke to the lawyers appointed by CBS about “a workplace fraught with systemic racism, discrimination and sexual harassment”.
Davis, who worked at the company for more than 10 years, most recently as an executive within the organisation’s diversity and inclusion department, wrote: “My understanding was that there would be follow-up and long-awaited reforms as their discovery continued. Yet I heard nothing again from investigators, and soon saw that their report had been leaked to the media before the board had reviewed its findings. I immediately called the CBS investigation hotline, which, via a recorded message, told me the inquiry was now closed. It was then that I realised what I had long tried to ignore — CBS has a white problem.”
Davis highlighted the lack of racial diversity in senior position at the company to support her claims about the race issue.
“The company has a white problem across the board. Did you know that there’s not one black creative executive working at CBS Television Network or CBS Television Studios?” Davis wrote.
She added that out of the organisation’s 36 creative executives, only three are women of colour, none of them black; and there is not one executive of colour working in casting.
The TV network is home to a numerous successful shows including The Good Fight, The Late, Late Show with James Corden and NCIS.
Davis drew a correlation with the lack of racial diversity and the toxic environment for black women.
Detailing some of her experiences of racism at the company, Davis recounted how one colleague told her “My dad has f***** black women, and he loved it” and how after being often mistaken for the only other woman working in production on a broadcast, white colleagues started calling the pair We-Dra, a portmanteau of Whitney and Deidra, their respective names.
Preempting the labels that would be applied to her, Davis said she was not “an angry black woman with an ax to grind” but that she did not want her black sons to have to work at a company that does not value their talent or skills.
In response to Davis’ letter, CBS released a statement to Variety in which it said it disagreed with some of her statements.
“CBS leadership has made strengthening our culture a top priority. Over the past several months, we have announced plans to devote considerable resources to critical areas such as ethics, compliance, diversity and inclusion, and human resources, including creating a centralised employee relations function to respond to workplace issues. Employees are CBS’ most important resource, and providing them with a safe, fair, inclusive and positive work environment is paramount to our continued success,” CBS told Variety.
You can read Davis’ letter in full here.