Diversity at Frontline in 2021: By the Numbers


March 15, 2021
Sarah Childress Series Senior Editor, FRONTLINE

As part of our ongoing commitment to diversifying FRONTLINE in front of and behind the camera and across our platforms, we publish data on both our staff and our independent producer corps, as well as information on the initiatives we have to advance this mission.

Our Producers

The charts below feature data from 2016-2020 on our producers’ race and gender identity based on appearance or explicit identification. Going forward, we will be gathering and publishing annual data.

The percent of films crediting at least one producer/director who is a woman:

Producers Women

The percent of films crediting at least one producer/director identified as a person of color:

Producers POC

Our Staff

We also conduct a voluntary survey asking our full-time staff members how they identify themselves  through prisms of racial and ethnic diversity, disability, gender and LGBTQIA+ identity, as well as geographic and socioeconomic diversity. We will continue to publish updated diversity data annually.

FRONTLINE’s 2021 numbers show that when it comes to gender diversity, women make up about 64 percent of our staff, a decrease from 74 percent last year. Another 36 percent are men.

Nearly 27 percent of our staff members self-identify as having a BIPOC racial or ethnic background — the same as 2020: roughly 13 percent are Black or African American, 16 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 4 percent are Asian and 2 percent Middle Eastern. Another 2 percent identified as multiracial. (For racial and ethnic diversity, the percentages do not add up to 100 percent, as staff members were encouraged to select all identities that applied to them.)

We gathered this data in 2020 for the first time; you can see the year-to-year comparisons on race and gender identify in the graph below:


About 16 percent of our staff identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, while last year 24 percent identified in this way.

This year, we added a question on disability, defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. Two percent of our staff identified as having a disability.

When it comes to age, about 40 percent of our staff is 18 to 34; 51 percent of our staff is 35 to 54; 9 percent is 55 and older.

We also collected data on geographic diversity. About 36 percent of our staff comes from New England and another 22 percent from another Eastern state; 13 percent come from the South, and 9 percent from both the West and Midwestern states. About 11 percent come from another country.

About 62 percent grew up in the suburbs; 20 percent in a rural area and about 18 percent in an urban center.

We also asked about the socioeconomic status of the household in which our staff was raised. About 47 percent of our staff reported a middle-class upbringing and another 29 percent upper-middle class. Four percent were raised in a lower-class household, nearly 16 percent lower-middle, 2 percent upper class, and 2 percent from the top 1 percent.

What We’re Doing

FRONTLINE has embarked on a number of initiatives to foster our diversity, equity and inclusion mission, including:

  • The FRONTLINE/Firelight Investigative Journalism Fellowship, a partnership between FRONTLINE and Firelight Media that supports independent producers from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in investigative storytelling. Other paid fellowships in collaboration with the Columbia University School of Journalism and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY have also helped FRONTLINE recruit journalists from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Hosting Emma Bowen Foundation Fellows in our digital video unit. The Emma Bowen Foundation provides paid internships to students of color at media companies across the country, and works to educate and place students in all areas of the media industry.
  • Our Local Journalism Initiative. With support from the John and James L. Knight Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the initiative strengthens local investigative journalism in communities where it needs support; we also emphasize the importance to our media partners of including journalists from underrepresented backgrounds and covering stories that affect communities often underrepresented in the media. In 2021, each of our partners have included a reporter of color on their investigative team.
  • Our internal committee, FRONTLINEForward, which has led several initiatives to establish systemic approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion at FRONTLINE. We’ve developed a guide to equitable hiring for managers, administer FRONTLINE’s annual staff diversity survey, and are currently leading an audit of FRONTLINE’s documentaries focused on quantifying and assessing on-camera representation of people from historically underrepresented groups.

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