USC Annenberg launches ‘Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’

The leading global research and advocacy think tank directed by Professor Stacy L. Smith at USC Annenberg today announced the launch of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Building on the success of the groundbreaking Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, a driving force in the effort for more diversity both on screen and behind the camera, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will represent a broader mission that will include music. A new Advisory Board has been appointed to reflect the initiative’s expanded mandate.

“Our new name reflects our continued and unwavering commitment to championing inclusion in all forms — including but not limited to gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, disability and now mental health — across the media industry at a time when the climate makes it clear that our solutions are more needed now than ever,” said Professor Smith, the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “We are eager for companies and individuals to work with us to understand where there are glaring inequities and determine how best to solve them.”

“The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is a leader in addressing inequality in entertainment and by expanding their work to include examinations of mental health in storytelling and inequality in all aspects of the music industry, its work will continue to be the gold standard,” said USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay. “Combining its track record of excellent work with Professor Smith’s innovative solutions, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will be a true force for industry change.”

Board of Advisors appointed

In addition to a new name, the Initiative announced the formation of a Board of Advisors. The more than two dozen appointees, including leaders from top entertainment companies such as The Walt Disney Studios, NBC Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, HBO, and WME, as well as notable foundations, will provide the Initiative insight and guidance. 

Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s leading music company, will participate in the initiative. Representing UMG on the advisory board will be Jody Gerson, the Chairman and CEO of the company’s publishing division, Universal Music Publishing Group. Gerson said, “These are critical issues to address in our society and in our industry, and this is a crucial time to address them. While I’m proud of the progress we’re making within our company, there remains much work to do and I’m honored to be appointed to join this impressive group to help tackle those challenges.”

“I am excited to join this group and raise the consciousness around inclusion and diversity. Inclusion is of great importance, and we must come together as a community to collectively implement change,” said Julius Tennon, president of development & production at JuVee Productions and one of the new Advisory Board members. 

A complete list of board members can be found below and on the Initiative’s website

Broadened focus includes music

As part of its broadened mission, the Initiative launched The Music Coalition to cover issues of inclusion in music. The Music Coalition is generously supported by The Harnisch Foundation and Clif Bar Family Foundation. The vision of the Coalition is a first-ever effort to combine research, industry participation and advocacy to study inclusion in music and work towards creating measurable change for representation of women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups across all facets of the music business.  

“Our goal is not only to create more opportunities for today’s recording artists, songwriters and music business executives, but also to ensure a pathway for the next generation of women and underrepresented talent to enter into successful careers where they can make a difference,” said Professor Smith. “Our conversations with industry insiders indicate that while the music industry suffers from inclusion deficits, especially for women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, leaders such as Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO, Sir Lucian Grainge, recognize the importance of issues of inclusion, and have demonstrated enthusiasm and readiness to tackle them. We’re thrilled that conversations with Sir Lucian that began over a year ago, have now yielded this exciting partnership.”

“The launch of this project comes at a critical moment for women in music. While we have made progress, we still have work to do and my hope is that this study will encourage further dialogue about how we continue supporting women in our business at all levels, from artists to executives,” said Advisory Board Member Samantha Kirby Yoh, partner who oversees WME’s East Coast music team. The Coalition will release new research throughout the year, with an initial report anticipated in February of 2018, along with an announcement of the leading companies participating in this effort.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative releases an annual study, most recently Inequality in 900 Popular Films, and in 2016 compiled the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD), which ranked media companies on their inclusion records. The Initiative conducted three years of research on barriers facing female directors in partnership with Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles. Professor Smith recently delivered a TED Talk, discussing nearly a decade’s worth of the Initiative’s independent research into top-grossing films. Finally, the Initiative has been at the forefront of launching solutions that address Hollywood’s epidemic of inequality. 

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will continue to produce yearly reports on representation in film, conduct other studies on topics related to diversity and inclusion and craft solutions to inequality in entertainment. The Initiative is currently completing an analysis of the portrayal of mental health in top films from 2016.

USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative: Advisory Board

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Advisory Board is comprised of the following members: Cinny Kennard, Executive Director, Annenberg Foundation; Leah Fischman, Board Chair, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative; Ivan Bart, President, IMG Models; Tena Clark, Founder, CEO, and Chief Creative Officer, DMI Music & Media; Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Head of Strategic Outreach, Pearl Street Films; Julie Ann Crommett, VP, Multicultural Audience Engagement, The Walt Disney Studios; Kelly Edwards, Head of Talent Development, HBO; Amy M. Emmerich, Chief Content Officer, Refinery29; Jody Gerson, Chairman and CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group; Donna Gigliotti, President, Tempesta Films; Karen Horne, SVP, Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television Studios; Jennifer Justice, President, Corporate Development, Superfly; Samantha Kirby Yoh, Partner/Music Agent, WME; Kalpana Kotagal, Partner, Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC; Franklin Leonard, Founder, The Black List; Gary Lucchesi, President, Lakeshore Entertainment, President, Producer’s Guild of America; Alana Mayo, Creative Executive; Hannah Minghella, President, TriStar Productions; Mauricio Mota, Co-President and Executive Producer, Wise Entertainment; Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; Thao Pham, Vice President of Community, Clif Bar & Company, Executive Director, Clif Bar Family Foundation; Gina Reyes, Director, Content Development, Story House Entertainment, Univision Communications; Brenda Robinson, Director of Business Development, Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP; Carla Sacks, Founder, Sacks & Co.; Cathy Schulman, President and CEO, Welle Entertainment, President, Women in Film Los Angeles;  Nell Scovell, TV Writer/Creator; Phil Sun, Partner/Agent, WME; Lynette Howell Taylor, Founder, 51 Entertainment; Julius Tennon, President, Development & Production, JuVee Productions; Jacki Zehner, Chief Engagement Officer, Women Moving Millions, President, The Jacquelyn & Gregory Zehner Foundation.

About USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is the leading think tank studying diversity in entertainment through original and sponsored research. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s findings create valuable and sought after research-based solutions that advance equality in entertainment. Professor Stacy L. Smith is the Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative which launched over ten years ago. Professor Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative examine gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT status, disability, and age on screen and gender and race/ethnicity behind the camera in cinematic and television content as well as barriers and opportunities facing women and people of color in the entertainment industry. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative also conducts economic analyses related to diversity and the financial performance of films. In 2015, LA Weekly named Professor Smith the #1 Most Influential Person in Los Angeles, and she has spoken on research at multiple high-profile engagements ranging from the TED Women stage to the United Nations. Professor Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative have been featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and NPR, among others. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s most recent research reports include the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD), multiple landmark studies with Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles and two studies on inclusion on screen and behind the camera across 900 top-grossing films conducted at USC Annenberg.  The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is generously supported by The Annenberg Foundation, The Harnisch Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, EPiX, Humana, LUNAFEST, The Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation, and other individuals. To learn more, visit or follow on Twitter @Inclusionists or on Facebook.