Former CBS Diversity Manager Blasts Network for ‘White Problem’

Whitney Davis and CBS Building (Credit: LinkedIn and CBS)

Former CBS Diversity Manager Whitney Davis is speaking out about what she calls the network’s “white problem.”

In an op-ed published by Variety Tuesday, Davis — an African-American woman who left CBS in February — blasted the company for its lack of diversity in the workplace.

“The company has a white problem across the board,” wrote Davis, who worked at the network for 13 years. “Did you know that there’s not one black creative executive working at CBS Television Network or CBS Television Studios?”

Davis alleged that she experienced instances of racism in every position she held at CBS.

“In every job I’ve had at CBS, co-workers have confused me with other black women in the office, as if we’re interchangeable,” she explained. “I don’t think most people understand just how demeaning these daily micro-aggressions are. Or maybe they do and don’t care.”

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Davis joined the company at age 23, to pursue a career in journalism. While working at CBS Evening News, for example, she claims she was passed over for high-profile assignments and promotions, despite her professional wins and experience.

“In September 2013, I sat down with the head of current programming to express my interest in joining his team,” she recalled. “I was told that there were no manager positions available. Shortly thereafter, a less experienced white male was hired into a manager role. He continues to rise within CBS to this day.”

Davis also addressed CBS’ investigation into the sexual assault allegations against former CEO Les Moonves, claiming that the legal firms the company hired didn’t handle the inquiry properly.

“After an initial interview with one investigator, I talked to six attorneys from both firms, detailing my experience at the company. In that heart-wrenching two-hour interview, I talked about a workplace fraught with systemic racism, discrimination and sexual harassment,” she wrote.

She continued: “My understanding was that there would be follow-up and long-awaited reforms as their discovery continued. Yet I heard nothing again from investigators, and soon saw that their report had been leaked to the media before the board had reviewed its findings.”

After Davis called the CBS investigation hotline, she discovered the inquiry had been closed.

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Les Moonves (President and Chief Executive Officer of CBS Corporation Les Moonves attends the 2015 CBS Upfront at The Tent at Lincoln Center on May 13, 2015 in New York City/Credit: Shutterstock)
Les Moonves left CBS in September 2018. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Davis, who said she willingly declined a financial exit package from CBS, ended her piece with an explanation about why she decided to speak out.

“I am not an angry black woman with an ax to grind. As a mom, I don’t want my black boys to have to work at a company that doesn’t value them for their talent and skills, and I don’t want other young girls and boys to encounter similar roadblocks in corporate America,” she penned. “They deserve a better world. I’m speaking out to encourage other black, Latinx, native, API, disabled or LGBTQ workers to know that we don’t have to tolerate what is intolerable.”

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In response to Davis’ allegations, CBS shared the following statement with Variety:

“During her time at CBS, Whitney was a valued team member of the News and Entertainment divisions. She was selected for a management-training program, promoted several times, and was given high-profile assignments. While we disagree with some statements in Whitney’s story, we take all employee concerns seriously and remain committed to improving the workplace experience for everyone.

“CBS leadership has made strengthening our culture a top priority. Over the past several months, we have announced plans to devote considerable resources to critical areas such as ethics, compliance, diversity and inclusion, and human resources, including creating a centralized employee relations function to respond to workplace issues. Employees are CBS’ most important resource, and providing them with a safe, fair, inclusive and positive work environment is paramount to our continued success.”