Before I move on I want to be transparent. Last Spring I sat down with my colleagues Sonic and Mitch to discuss ways Highlark can add a revenue stream. We knew we did not want to compromise our mission nor did we want to sacrifice our integrity. Therefore, we knew we could not go down the advertising model route. Instead, we created the Highlark Collective. The Highlark Collective is a marketing cooperative. We provide companies, bands, brands and personalities with disruptive, effective and fresh growth strategies to meet their overall objectives.
Meanwhile it’s important to us to keep the integrity of Highlark. We decided months ago not to post content that we were paid to create. We would use some of the money to ensure our content represents those who read us and to find writers and editors who can do that. Recently we worked on a project with Elite Model Management NYC. We filmed a round table discussion the day prior to The Women’s March and then filmed Elite at the march. After reviewing the content, we agreed it should have a place on Highlark. We decided to post some of the work we did to continue this imperative conversation with our readers. Change needs to happen at the top. Decision makers need to be more diverse everywhere. Including here at Highlark. Please feel free to send us your feedback.
On January 19, 2018 we showed up to Elite Model Management NYC to film a round table with models Natane Boudreau, Carissa Pinkston, Chloe Hayward, Cici Ali, Emily Wilson, Hunter Schafer, Leila Nda, Nadja Giramata, Nilmarie Black, Teresa Moore, and Vida Rocker. Here are the videos:
Following the round table, I spoke up. I said something along the lines of, “It is not lost on us that the three people filming and responsible for editing are men. I want you to know that we have been flies on the wall for similar discussions but this stood out. Being a witness to this level of intelligent conversation is rewarding and I want to thank you for allowing us to be hear, to be inspired and to be part of the necessary change.”
I pride myself on being pretty woke. I’ve spent many years working in grassroots progressive politics. I have worked on political campaigns for some of the more progressive democratic candidates. I’ve also read a lot including how to properly speak about these various issues. However, it wasn’t until January 19, 2018 that I fully grasped what the Women’s March is really about.
It is about ensuring that those decisions makers are as diverse as our population. Both men and women or those who identify as neither and those of various races, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. It’s hard to feel that you matter if you do not feel you’re being represented. 72% of corporate leadership from 16 Fortune 500 companies are white men. It’s important to note that only 16 of the companies release this information. Those 16 Fortune 500 companies account for 800,000 employees. At Google, 75% of those in leadership positions are men. And yes, 50% of the population happen to be women.
Those responsible for representing us and creating rules and regulations we must live by are also predominately white males. In 2017 women hold 105 seats in the United States Congress comprising only 19.6%. They hold 21 seats in the United States Senate making up 21%. And although we currently have the most diverse congress ever according to The Hill, Hispanics make up only 8% of Congress yet 17% of the U.S. population. Of the 535 members of congress only 82 are black and 15 are Asian. Only 7 identify as LGBTQ.
In Hollywood it’s no different. Only 7.7% of films in 2015 were directed by women, according to an USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism report released in 2015. That lead to only 28.1% of the female speaking characters across 700 films. Only 11% of films had a balanced cast.
According to that same report, of the 779 Hollywood directors in 2014 only 5.8% were black and only 2.4% were Asian. That lead to 73.1% of the top 100 films to be predominately white. Just 17 out of 100 films featured a lead or a co-lead from a racial or ethnic minority group. 86% of those films had no LGBTQ characters. Of those 14 films that featured at least 1 LGBTQ person, 84.2% were white. Newsflash, non-white people can also identify as LGBTQ.
Diversity behind the camera, in the writing room, in the boardrooms, and writing the checks for films improves diversity on screen. Having at least one woman behind the camera increases the percentage of women on screen by nearly 10%. Having a black director present increases the percentage of a black character on screen by nearly 30%.
What about the music industry? Well those numbers are also grim. According to The New York Times, “gender diversity in the music industry, it turns out, may be even worse than in Hollywood.” While analyzing the top 600 songs from 2012 to 2017, The New York Times found that of 1,239 performing artists, 22.4 percent of them were women. Of the 2,767 songwriters credited on those top songs only 12.3 percent were women. Only 2% of the songs had a female producer. However, the music industry has also made strives at ensuring it is more diverse. Of the study’s 1,239, according to The New York Times, 42 percent were from minority groups.
Also those who are responsible to inform and educate us skews white and male. According to Columbia Journalism Review, “minority individuals account for one person on the 11-person masthead of the Washington Post, three people on the 18-person masthead of The New York Times, one person on the five person masthead of NPR, three people on the 14-peson masthead of the Chicago Tribune, and one person on the 14-person masthead of the Los Angeles Times.” CJR’s report stated that 78% of the New York Times newsroom is white, while 53% of the New York Tri-state metro area is minorities. According to Google trends, U.S. newsrooms are 63% male. USA Today is only 33% female and 78% white. Those in leadership positions adjust slightly to 38% female and 84% white.
The only way to have full diversity where everyone’s stories can be told, where everyone will feel represented, and where we will see the necessary systemic change we need to progress and to be stronger is if we continue to fight to ensure that those making the decisions from government officials, corporate boardrooms, journalists, advertising agencies, directors, writers and producers, and artists represent our diverse population. It’s not about having boardrooms of only women, it’s about making sure they represent 50% of them. That’s only fair. And it’s only right. It is about making sure that a women’s life is equal to that of a man’s life. Just like it’s about ensuring a black person’s life matters the same as a white person’s.
That is what I feel this movement is all about. It is what it has always been about. That is why I proudly marched with Elite Model Management NYC last month. And that is why we at The Highlark Collective were proud to work with them and to share with you their story like only they can tell it. We hope to get more opportunities to tell stories like theirs. And we plan to use Highlark.com to continue telling those stories.