You probably received an email from me recently, encouraging you to go to on member portal and tell us about your gender, race/ethnicity and disability status. (If not, make sure your information is up-todate in the member portal). I’m repeating parts of that email in this column, in case you missed it. That’s how much I want you to read this message! For as long as I can remember, we’ve been working to get a full picture of our membership, so we can find new ways to be certain that the American landscape of storytelling reflects our membership’s full diversity. We are intent on inspiring our employers to #ChangeTheStage and create more intentionally inclusive hiring. Because at the end of the day, it’s about jobs, and it’s about access to getting those jobs: equal employment opportunities. The data we collect about our membership is and has always been purely for internal purposes. Your individual personal information is kept confidential from any employer.
The data is used in the aggregate, as in our first-ever diversity study in the spring of 2017. Those numbers help us go to our employers and show them how diverse our membership is and why we need to work together to create equal access and equal rights for all. So we need to know more about you.
This fall, we launched a revamped version of our voluntary self-identification questions, after a lot of careful thought and research by the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Committee and our staff. We made changes to our existing questions and added some new ones. We’re now asking about sexual orientation and veteran status. Another new question asks whether you primarily identify as an actor or stage manager. We’ve also updated our gender question to better accommodate transgender identities, expanded the options for race/ethnicity and changed how we ask about disability. The committee and staff made these changes with input from experts like the Human Rights Campaign and by talking to members of color, members with disabilities and transgender members. It still isn’t perfect – but it’s all part of our effort to expand your ability to more fully express your identity.
If you haven’t yet, I hope that you’ll take the time to update your responses to the voluntary self-identification questions at actorsequity.org/selfid.
On a personal/professional note, I am six months into the First National (aka North American) Tour of Come From Away. I’m also commemorating my 27th year as a member of the Council and 21st year serving in a Chair capacity of our union’s EEO Committee. “So how is all this EEO stuff going?” I hear you ask (especially since this is a column about Diversity). With miles to go ahead of us, I’m also grateful to say that we’re farther than we’ve ever been. The fact that I could start this paragraph by telling you that I, an Asian-American actor, am playing a fantastic role based on a real life non-Asian woman from Texas in the first national tour of a show still playing to sold-out audiences on Broadway is something I don’t think I imagined I could report 27, 21, or even 10 years ago. Our show’s intentionally inclusive casting and storytelling has become my opportunity for not only a year or two of amazing employment, but also to be part of giving audiences an additional lens through which to see this show’s message. But it had to start with me having access – both literally and philosophically (the team being committed to it) – to audition for the part.
I first ran for Council in 1992 because I had seen change start to happen (even back then), and I wanted to find ways to build on it. This is still at the core of my advocacy, as we work towards building greater and greater access – both literally and philosophically – to job opportunities for all of our members. With the intrepid support and guidance of Executive Director Mary McColl, President Kate Shindle, our Council, the EEO Committee, Director of Diversity Nicole Smart and the rest of our staff, I’m proud of the collective work we continue to do and the change we are seeing.
Like I said, we still have miles to go – but with your help, we can move even farther along. Thank you for being a part of our journey to gain access to more and more intentional inclusion across the industry.
Originally published in Equity News, Winter 2019.