ABC’s commitment to diversity pays off

Television titan ABC Television Group takes its cues from vice president Daisy Auger-Domínguez to ensure its content and creators reflect an increasingly diverse audience

Daisy Auger-Domínguez, Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Organization and Workforce Diversity, Disney/ABC Television Group
Daisy Auger-Domínguez, Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Organization and Workforce Diversity, Disney/ABC Television Group

It was like a mini United Nations. The class of 1991 at the American School of Santo Domingo that had 25 students of 10 nationalities and languages laid the foundation for Daisy Auger-Domínguez’s career and personal commitment to diversity. Her in-between status of Dominican-Puerto Rican gave her an appreciation for individual complexity. She did not grow up trying to fit people into neat, little boxes.

Auger-Domínguez remembers the feeling of being stereotyped. When she moved to the United States as a junior in high school, she was instantly labeled as Hispanic. The term seemed to refer to a homogeneous group often defined by poverty and lack of education. “Nobody seemed to think about the diversity of experiences and cultural nuances in the Hispanic/Latino community,” she recalls. Auger-Domínguez pushed back against that notion and insisted on creating her own identity. The struggle left her with a disdain for limiting the potential of others and a passion for diversity and inclusion.

At Bucknell University, while studying international relations and women’s studies, Auger-Domínguez found that she initially related more closely to other international students than to US-born students. “Living in that in-between status afforded me periods of reflection. I have the ability to hone an understanding of people and institutions in broad ways, inclusive of background, experience, thought, and perspective,” she says. When she served as president of the Latino student club, some of her best friends were leaders of the Asian, South Asian, and African-American student clubs. “We crossed invisible boundaries and developed a multicultural awareness that broke away from traditional silos,” Auger-Dominguez explains.

As she moved into the professional world, Auger-Domínguez developed her own philosophy of diversity and human capital. In her current role, vice president of talent acquisition and organization and workforce diversity at Disney/ABC Television Group (DATG), Auger-Domínguez helps the iconic company weave diversity and inclusion into all business functions. Her responsibilities include ensuring that DATG creates and produces programming that authentically reflects and appeals to its diverse audience. Great storytelling is Disney/ABC’s business strategy, and the only way the company will draw people to its content and drive business success, she says, is by reflecting the full variety of America’s stories, faces, and voices on the screen and behind the scenes. ABC’s primetime lineup for 2014-15 includes 12 new series, featuring key contributions by diverse talent.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) wrote, directed, and produced American Crime, which debuts in 2015. How to Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis (Oscar-nominated lead of the Help) under the production of Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers (winners of the Directors Guild of America’s 2014 Diversity Award), premiered in September along with Black-ish, a comedy about African-American identity. And Cristela, which began in October, tells the story of a Latina pursuing a career in law. Meanwhile, superstars Sofía Vergara and Kerry Washington make their returns on Modern Family and Scandal, respectively.

Black-ish was one of ABC’s first new series of the fall to receive a green light for a full season, debuting as the number one comedy.
Black-ish was one of ABC’s first new series of the fall to receive a green light for a full season, debuting as the number one comedy.

From her office in Burbank, California, Auger-Domínguez has built a plan around creativity, innovation, engagement, and relevance. Her team approaches recruitment of diverse talent with a hiring vision that centers on business strategy, internal education, awareness, and accountability. Those efforts have contributed to the Walt Disney Company (parent company of Disney/ABC) ranking in DiversityInc’s 2014 top 50 companies for diversity.

During the course of her career, Auger-Domínguez has come to understand that even very bright people with tremendous potential are sometimes stifled by minimal access to networks within companies. “When unrealized talent remains disenfranchised and on the sidelines,” she says, “individuals can lose their will or potential to achieve greatness, and companies lose tremendous commercial value.” In early 2014 Auger-Domínguez and her team launched the Hispanic Creative Resource Group, a network for colleagues in programming, casting, marketing, and development. The employee resource group has the dual benefit of supporting employees and leveraging their insights for the business. Through a series of idea-generation programs, the group has already helped Disney/ABC’s content creators explore themes that resonate with Hispanic audiences and create more authentic and relevant content.

“We crossed invisible boundaries and developed a multicultural awareness that broke away from traditional silos.”

Auger-Domínguez is now working on several other initiatives including programs to address unconscious bias in sourcing, recruitment, and development programs that are critical to sustaining momentum and driving action. Diversity and inclusion programs can only ring true if they are supported by senior leaders, which Auger-Domínguez says is the case at DATG, where diversity of thought, experience, and background is a core business strategy. She says leaders in other companies need to think about identifying and harnessing the next generation of leadership.

Most mornings, Auger-Domínguez loads her daughter in the car, drops her off at school, and muses about how her six-year-old, whose father is of French and Italian descent, is being raised in a multicultural family. Auger-Domínguez hopes her daughter will develop global cultural sensitivities. “If my plan works,” says Auger-Domínguez, “she will grow up in a world where diverse cultures are more accurately represented in the media.”