Disney Just Hired a New Diversity, Inclusion Executive and Ron DeSantis Is Not Happy

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Janice Underwood with Ron DeSantis in the corner inside of the Magic Kingdom Park at Disney World.

Credit: Inside The Magic

The Walt Disney Company has hired a new DEIA ( diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) executive, Janice Underwood, and Ron DeSantis is having a field day.

Janice Underwood smiling while inside of Walt Disney World Resort.
Credit: Inside The Magic

Janice Underwood Becomes Disney’s Newest Diversity, Equality Chief Executive

According to a report from the Federal Times, the head of the federal government’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives, Janice Underwood, resigns from her role amid conservative scrutiny regarding the perceived extent of DEIA efforts.

Underwood, known for spearheading equitable workplace policies for 2.1 million federal employees at the Office of Personnel Management, is set to transition to a similar role at Disney. This move coincides with Disney facing criticism from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis regarding its gender and LGBTQ+ policies. The company announced Underwood’s new position in a LinkedIn post.

Governor Ron DeSantis, in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, has been actively pursuing measures to limit Disney World’s influence. This is perceived as a response to the company’s opposition to legislation he signed in 2022, which restricts instruction in certain schools concerning sexual orientation and gender identity, as reported by the New York Times.

Ron DeSantis laughing at Disney World
Credit: DeSantis/Disney

Disney Is Committed to Diversity

Despite the pushback, Disney remains committed to its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) initiatives. The company emphasizes its focus on cultivating a diverse workforce and leadership team, underscoring the importance of aligning its internal makeup with the global diversity of its consumers for more authentic and effective service.

“Employees thrive when they feel supported and empowered, and Dr. Underwood has been instrumental in positioning the federal government as a DEIA leader,” stated Kiran Ahuja, Director of OPM. Ahuja emphasized the critical role of DEIA initiatives in recruiting, hiring, and retaining top talent nationwide.

Underwood’s efforts align closely with the President’s vision to transform the federal government into a model employer, reducing barriers to attracting diverse and in-demand applicants. Despite acknowledgment of staff shortages, skepticism from lawmakers, particularly Congressional Republicans, persists.

Disney CEO Bob Iger with Mickey Mouse posing for a photo.
Credit: Edited by Inside the Magic

DeSantis Continues Assault on the House of Mouse

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fl., criticized DEIA efforts, stating, “Dividing people by race, gender, and religion and calling it ‘inclusion’ doesn’t add up,” expressing support for cutting funding for chief diversity officer positions, as seen in last February’s statement.

Before joining OPM, Dr. Janice Underwood served under former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, where she played a crucial role in leading the ONE Virginia Plan. This groundbreaking initiative, involving over 100 agencies, marked a first-of-its-kind statewide effort under her guidance.

DeSantis’ constant attack on Disney continues as the Florida Governor has openly spoken out on Disney’s stance on LGBTQ+ policies, with everything starting in April of 2022 when DeSantis enacted the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” into Florida law, prompting Disney to take a stance on the issue due its employees.

Janice Underwood posing in front of the Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle at Disney World.
Credit: Inside The Magic

Janice Underwood Ready for Change

During the 2022 DEIA Summit, Dr. Janice Underwood emphasized the necessity of a sustained commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) initiatives. She stated:

We must commit to continuous improvement and prevent DEIA initiatives and programs from fizzling out. We need our commitment to DEIA to be baked like the ingredients of a delicious cake and not like too much icing on the cake, which can easily be scraped off.

There is no official comment from Ron DeSantis yet on the news of Disney hiring Underwood. However, with a few court dates on the horizon and DeSantis still on his hopeful Presidential run, comments and more should be on the way from the Florida Governor.

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