X-Boundaries symposium examines entertainment industry's diversity gap
At the start of 2020, the #MeToo movement was getting its first test in the courts with the Harvey Weinstein case. Sean Combs was calling out the Grammys for failing to honor black artists with its top awards. And women in Hollywood were protesting the dearth of female director nominees at the Oscars — again.
At Pacific, students were questioning the lack of diversity in movies, television and music. That led to the decision to focus the fifth annual X-Boundaries event on a deep discussion about the diversity gap.
Started in 2016 by College of the Pacific’s Dean Rena Fraden, the X-Boundaries symposium takes an interdisciplinary look at society’s most pressing issues. Past symposiums have addressed terrorism, humanity’s impact on the earth and artificial intelligence.
“Our students are attuned to what’s going on in the world outside education,” said Keith Hatschek, Music Management and Music Industry Studies program director. “Having conversations and dialogue around the issues of diversity, inclusion and equality is important to them.”
Dubbed, “See Us. Hear Us: Addressing the Diversity Gap in Media and Entertainment,” the Feb. 28 symposium on Pacific’s Stockton Campus drew representatives from music and other media industries to discuss ways that women, ethnic and racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ communities are often marginalized, either through lower pay, fewer opportunities or lack of representation in the final product.Using technology to identify bias
This year’s keynote speaker was Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The nonprofit has developed a tool to identify the ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation of characters in films and commercials to help production companies spot inequities in representation.
“We are research-driven interventionists,” Di Nonno said of her organization. She told students that in many ways, representation gaps that reveal themselves on screen actually stem from business decisions that affect who gets to produce content. “Particularly for people of color and for women, the number one barrier is access to capital and then distribution.”
The day-long event featured panel discussions on recognizing and challenging bias, artists’ roles and industry barriers, and the need for systemic changes in business, law, media, the arts and society to foster an inclusive environment.
Speaking after her panel discussion, Samantha Juneman ¢11, vice president of Commercial Partnerships for Universal Music Group and a graduate of Pacific’s Conservatory of Music, gave advice to students on the importance of mentors and advocates.
“I definitely think you do yourself a favor when you let yourself know that you deserve support and that you deserve mentors,” she said. “You deserve professional support like a therapist or an executive coach. You deserve resource groups, and you deserve to be able to have an advocate that you can go ask questions and be heard.”
Following the panel discussions, students participated in breakout sessions that addressed real-world scenarios and how to respond to them.
“I really admired having guest speakers come to our campus for the symposium—especially people who are working in fields that I am interested in working in after I graduate from Pacific,” said Media X major Angela Salazar ’20.