I imagine our founder, Emma Bowen, as both a dreamer and a pragmatist focused on results. As a dreamer, she and the co-founders of this organization envisioned a media ecosystem that represented and served the needs of all Americans, regardless of color. In reality, it did not. People of color were portrayed negatively in the media, and shut out of the very careers that could influence those portrayals. Emma Bowen and her colleagues recognized that media was both the problem, and the solution.
And so as pragmatists, Emma Bowen and her colleagues went directly to major television networks to challenge their hiring practices. If they refused to adopt initiatives to hire, train and retain people of color, Bowen would challenge their broadcast license renewals. Bowen and her colleagues knew she could leverage the power of the FCC to push for inclusion. They knew that businesses would respond to that regulatory accountability.
At today’s EBF, we are continuing Emma Bowen’s vision to make the media and technology industries more inclusive—which we believe is needed now more than ever.
Since the 2016 presidential election, our country finds itself dealing with urgent matters relating to the accuracy and quality of the news. With reports showing that journalists are becoming more concentrated on America’s coasts, leaving millions of people in many parts of the country without adequate coverage of the issues that matter to them, it’s no surprise that those millions are being left without media they can trust.
All of this makes our vision for EBF 2.0 that much more urgent and important because inclusive media companies such as EBF can elevate diverse perspectives that capture hearts and minds to bring people closer and restore that trust.
EBF 2.0 aims to ensure that more people of color are hired, retained and advanced to decision-making positions to influence the way media is expressed and business is conducted. To fully impact the industry, we need to reach all essential functions in front of and behind the cameras—the Content of Media (journalism and production), the Business of Media (sales, research, human resources and other behind-the-scenes business careers), and the Innovation of Media (social media, engineering, new technology, big data). I encourage you to visit our website at emmabowenfoundation.com to learn more about our main program areas.
And while it’s essential that our media recognizes and celebrates all Americans to create that shared sense of dignity and understanding, there is a very real and practical business opportunity for doing so. Diversity is no longer a numbers game or a checked box on a form. A diverse company provides a direct pathway to bridging opportunity gaps. Right now, there is a seismic cultural demographic shift happening in this country, and companies must be prepared to address these changes with new and diverse talent if they want stay in business.
Today’s EBF aims to be the practical solution for that need. We see EBF 2.0 as an extension of our founders’ vision of inclusion by providing practical solutions for the ever-growing and changing media industry.
We put that vision into practice in June when we gathered with more than 200 diverse college students and young media professionals at the Emma Bowen Foundation Summer Conference. These young people are preparing to take their first steps toward a career in the media and technology industries. We heard from executives at top media companies, discussed journalism and storytelling, networked with EBF alumni and more. Learn more here: http://www.emmabowenfoundation.com/summer_conference.
Our founder had a vision of changing the narrative for people of color. I believe that EBF 2.0 will lead us to the realization of that vision by engaging minorities as stakeholders in all aspects of the creation of media.
Dr. Rahsaan Harris
President and CEO, Emma Bowen Foundation