Karen Horne, who led led Warner Bros. Discovery Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for North America, is leaving the company amid a raft of layoffs and major restructuring since the merger. Executive said Horne’s departure was not part of the broader staff retrenchment but a rethinking of the DEI division.
DEI head Asif Sadiq announced the departure of the well-respected, Burbank-based Horne in an email to staff. Last September, WBD revamped its DEI team under Sadiq will head the group. Horne, SVP for North America was a key leader. Three other positions Europe, Middle East and Africa, Latin America and Asia-Pacific reported in to him. That move came after merged company has faced criticism in its early going over its decision to appoint a slate of entirely white, male directors to its board and a relative lack of diversity in its top exec ranks.
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Last year, Horne was put in charge of Warner Bros. Discovery’s popular directors program. That came after the company initially shuttered it, before making a quick u-turn.
The company had revealed in October that the initiative, which been lauded for their inclusion of diverse voices into the television industry, was being shuttered at Warner Bros. Television, where they have resided, as part of a massive slew of cuts. However, later that day, it announced that it would, in fact, bring it back, but it would be housed within WBD’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion unit, under Horne, rather than through Warner Bros. Television.
She joined then-WarnerMedia in March 2020, having previously been at NBC Entertainment and Universal Television Studios as Senior Vice President, Programming Talent Development and Inclusion.
The LA Times broke the story.
READ THE MEMO:
Dear DE&I Team,
It has been nearly a year since I assumed my role and began working with this incredibly talented and innovative global team. Together, we have made great strides toward creating and implementing a holistic diversity, equity and inclusion strategy that effectively serves WBD employees, our creative partners, diverse talent industry-wide, as well as consumers around the world.
I am proud of the work we have done and know that even more accomplishments and progress are ahead for us this year and in 2024. I want to share some news about how we are both growing and changing our team so that we most effectively serve the unique regional needs of employees.
We will now have designated leads who are tasked solely with employee-related initiatives in each region. This will enable our content program leads to have a truly global perspective when developing opportunities for diverse talent and increasing representation on screen and behind the camera, while ensuring the regional leads can focus on how we educate, empower, and engage our employees.
As a result of this new approach, Karen Horne, Senior Vice President of North America DE&I, who has a broad DE&I portfolio beyond employee-related initiatives, will be departing the company. As you know, Karen is a talented executive who is committed to our shared goals of creating an even more inclusive company and an accessible and equitable industry. I thank Karen for the important role she played in establishing a strong foundation while integrating the legacy companies’ teams and programs, and wish her the very best. We will begin a search shortly for a new group vice president of North America DE&I to oversee our employee-focused DE&I initiatives, and will be speaking to both internal and external candidates over the next several weeks.
Our international structure will follow a similar model. We are in the process of identifying a new group vice president to join our team. Niarchos Pabalis, Mona Malakooti, and the person who fills the open director position in EMEA will report to this new GVP. In addition to providing counsel to the regional leads and adding further expertise to our group, the GVP will work closely with me, Gerhard Zeiler, President, International, and his leadership team to promote increased engagement around programs for our employees.
Importantly, these changes do not alter our commitment to or our plans for pipeline programs and content-driven initiatives — these are fundamental pillars of our DE&I strategy and will continue to be areas of investment and focus. Grace Moss and Yvette Urbina will continue to report to me directly while working closely with the regional teams.
I will keep you updated as we identify leaders to fill these key roles in our new structure. In the meantime, thank you for your incredible dedication to our team and the important work we do. Please reach out with any thoughts or questions.
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