What Streaming Television Has To Do with Corporate Diversity

In 2016 Amazon Video released a critically and viewer acclaimed series—Good Girls Revolt. The show depicts the landmark sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the women researchers of Newsweek in 1970. The story line is entwined with empathetic, multi-dimensional characters that test the boundaries of sex, drugs, and rapidly changing cultural norms while they deliver the News of the World through creative and fascinatingly resourceful means.

But then, less than six weeks after its release, Amazon cancelled Good Girls Revolt. The decision was a surprise as the show was had strong metrics—a 4.5 out of 5 rating by Amazon viewers, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96, and a 55% conversion rate from Amazon entertainment to retail. What’s more surprising is the account of how the cancellation decision was made. Apparently, a show about women and the start of the feminist movement was cancelled without any women being involved in the decision. Amazon made a wholesale decision seemingly without reference to metrics or input from any member of the audience that the show targeted (women ages 18 – 49).

Some may say that Good Girls Revolt is just a show and therefore the decision to cancel it and the method by which the decision was made do not have much significance, but when you consider that only one of the top 20 women-targeted product companies (cosmetics brands, housewares brands…) has a majority or even 50% female board, I believe it is a symptom of something significantly wrong with U.S. business culture that creates an environment for these types of decisions, facilitated by an exclusionary decision-making process, to be acceptable.

The dearth of women in corporate leadership roles is a widespread problem. Women represent 47% of the country’s workforce, yet only account for 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 10% of Fortune 500 board members. The disparity is not due to education levels. More women receive college degrees than men. So what is it that keeps women from achieving proportional gains in leadership roles? The dismissal of the importance of a diverse and representative corporate leadership team is part of the problem. Like the Good Girls Revolt decision, most companies are missing opportunities that can be realized by having management teams that are characteristic of their target market. Diversity has been a buzzword in business for over a decade, but clearly, most U.S. companies have not truly embraced and implemented this essential concept with adopted policies that facilitate it.

If another media company picks up Good Girls Revolt for its second season, it will be a win for discriminating viewers, but how do we address the larger issue and get U.S. corporations to recognize that women executive and board representation should be proportional to the target markets they wish to engage?


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