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Diversity and Inclusion Take Center Stage at BLE

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BLE 2021: Black Lives Matter Licensing and ViacomCBS talk diversity and inclusion at Brand Licensing Europe.

On the second day of BLE, visitors came together to learn more about diversity in the

licensing industry from Mark Kingston, senior vice president, international consumer products, ViacomCBS Consumer Products; Ameeta Held, vice president, insights and business strategy, consumer products,ViacomCBS; and Maura Regan, president, Licensing International.

Saphia Maxamed, founder, Black Lives Matter Licensing Movement, opened the keynote and

spoke about what inspired her to launch the organization.

Kingston discussed why ViacomCBS has taken the time to focus on diversity efforts and what those look like for the company, including a doll based on “That Girl Lay Lay” and “Santiago of the Sea,” a show featuring Caribbean culture, and many other marginalized communities that the company is working to increase representation for.

Alongside their own internal diversity efforts, ViacomCBS has launched a tool kit that is available for others to use when bolstering their own diversity efforts.

“This movement is about everyday people,” says Kingston.

Held spoke about the “More than Dolls” study, commissioned to study diversity in the dolls

category and how it plays an important part of the diversity efforts for the company.

She first referenced the Clark Test of the 1940s, which asked school-aged children which doll they liked better. Overall, both the Black and white children said the white dolls were better-looking and better behaved, while the Black dolls were considered to be ugly and bad. With this test in mind, they spent time collecting demographics about girls’ doll collections to look at purchasing habits. For Black girls, they had mainly Black dolls, and white girls, their collections were made up mainly of white dolls, and Hispanic and Asian girls were most likely to have a more varied collection of dolls, but were still lacking options when it came to dolls that looked like them.

“Dolls are more than just toys, they are reflections of our society, showcasing the cultural standards of beauty that so many young girls internalize,” says Held. “The relationship that dolls have to girls’ self-esteem and their perceptions of themselves is a powerful one. It plays an important role in the development of their own aspirations and dreams.”

While Held said there was more research to be done, girls were more likely to find themselves beautiful when they see and purchase dolls that look like them.

“Kids and consumers need diversity,” says Kingston. “If they see it, they can be it.”

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