In 2020, Mainstream privately discussed how to improve our support for disenfranchised communities. Ultimately, we recognized that we needed to:
- unequivocally define and publicly state our principles on diversity, equity, and inclusion;
- advocate for the advancement of underrepresented groups in our industry;
- elevate organizations who were already doing this work by providing them with resources, both financial and in-kind;
- improve ourselves by working with experts to identify our own unconscious biases.
While we’re just a small business, we hope that our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion inspires other companies of all shapes and sizes to commit to similar or even greater goals.
Defining Our Principles
Mainstream has codified its DEAI stance here. This living document acknowledges that we participate in an industry with significant representation problems, and it is our responsibility to create practices that move towards equity. As our understanding of best practices improves, we will continue to refine this document and redefine our relationships.
Advocating for Advancement
While we would never want to reduce people to numbers, we also know that you can’t fix what you don’t measure. So in 2021, Mainstream began measuring its hiring policies and vendor contracts to determine our impact across various communities. What follows are the data from those measurements.
To streamline our reporting process and ensure accurate data, we classified all our hires as either “underrepresented” or “not underrepresented”. The latter category is comprised by Caucasian cisgendered heterosexual males. Everyone else falls into the former category.
- We processed 526 invoices for crew positions. Of those, 227 (43.2%) were for underrepresented individuals.
- We paid out a total of $699,307.83 in contractor invoices. $228,054.44 (32.6%) went to underrepresented individuals.
- The average contract for underrepresented individuals was $1,004.65, while their counterparts’ average contract was for $1,576.10.
This data establishes a baseline for us to measure future performance. They are not quotas: the work doesn’t stop when parity is reached. Equity is the starting point, not the finish line.
Mainstream offered financial and in-kind resources to organizations dedicated to social justice. This manifested in the form of production discounts, free workshops, free or significantly discounted studio time, company donation matches, and internal fundraising events. We plan to not only continue, but expand this practice in the future.
Mainstream has retained an external consultant, Brave Trainings, to help us unpack and understand unconscious biases, improve our hiring practices, and create a more open and accepting workplace. Our intention is to continue this training quarterly.
What We’ve Learned
A lot of good has come from our reflections. As a team, we are learning to normalize conversations around race, gender, sexuality, and ability. This leads to an increased level of comfort discussing these topics outside the safety of our office. It has manifested in improving on-screen representation in our events, increasing accessibility to physical and virtual spaces, and a more robust onboarding procedure when hiring new crew and contractors.
Yet, there is still work to do. The most glaring issue we’ve uncovered is average contract size. With underrepresented individuals only receiving 63.7% of the contract value of their counterparts, we must move swiftly to rectify this issue.
We believe that there are two forces causing this problem: level of seniority in our underrepresented candidates, and industry-wide wage compression due to systemic racism.
What’s To Come
In 2022, we will address this problem with a two-pronged solution. We will:
- Improve diversity in hiring for our leadership roles and senior positions.
- Provide rate guidance to our minority candidates, informing them of benchmarked industry rates in the case that they are undercharging for their work.
We will also improve our reporting and data-gathering by getting more nuanced with our employee classifications. We will break out future reports into segments that further elucidate where we can improve.
While achieving equity cannot occur overnight, we will continue to fight the internal and external forces that seek to undermine it. We hope that our public commitment to transparency keeps us focused on the important work of achieving equity in our industry.