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Is Dawn Hudson in Trouble at the Academy?

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by Melissa Silverstein
January 9, 2012 11:32 AM
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It seems that today is the day about stories about women executives under fire.  Late Friday afternoon a news alert rolled out from the LA Times with a story about some troubles with Dawn Hudson who is 8 months into her tenure as the head of the Academy. 

While Ms. Hudson is part of the film community (unlike the previous executive who left her job MT Carney) she comes from the Indie world and according to the piece, she is making the staid Academy board quite anxious.  Here is another woman hired to shake up an organization and the shake up is a bit too much.  The story goes on to report that a closed door board meeting was held to "evaluate her job performance" and some people are so against her that buying out the remainder of her contract was mentioned.

Ugh.  How can you be evaluated so quickly?  She's just eight months into a job where she was brought in make change.  Change is hard.  We've all been through it.  Some people stay, some leave, new people get hired, mistakes get made. 

But this board should be behind her.  They shouldn't be leaking these kinds of stories.  Are they really trying to pin the Brett Ratner crap on her?  I love how they throw out stuff like she is spending so much money on redecorating as a deflection.

One thing she has been doing is trying to diversify the 6,000 member Academy which is mostly old and male.  I'm betting that is one thing that is pissing people off.  The guys really like being in charge.  The story reports that she's been getting herself involved in the process of adding Academy members which previously has only been handled by the branches.   But their record on diversity sucks, so if you want to add diversity you've got to figure out how to do it differently from the way it has been done before which clearly has not worked. 

But, she better remember that if you are pushing people you better be above reproach and practice what you preach, and it seems from some of her hires she is not:

Hudson has made diversifying the 6,000-member organization, which is largely white and male, a primary objective. And some members and governors say the academy is overdue for change. But critics complain that while she's instructed middle management to hire minorities for entry-level jobs, she's made pricey additions to her own staff, in particular a speech writer and a social media executive — both white men.

Everybody makes mistakes especially in a new job.  Preaching diversity and losing some long term female staff members and hiring white men to high profile jobs is not the smartest move she could have made.  She can't be the woman who wants diversity but then loses all her female team members.  

But it must be hard to be making all these changes -- some which will work and some which won't -- in a fishbowl.  But, I am always wary of people who cite a woman's brash management style which is usually code for she's just a bitch and we don't like her. 

If I were a board member I would try and figure out how to fix this.  There was already a ton of bad press over the Brett Ratner debacle. You guys hired her.  She deserves your backing for more time especially since she was given a mandate of change. 

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences leader is under fire (LA Times)

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