In an email to eligible voters late Friday afternoon, the Tony Awards notified its members that “Commencing with the 2021-2022 season, all Tony voters will be required to complete Unconscious Bias Training to participate in voting for the Tony Awards.” For many voters, it was the first they learned of the new voter eligibility requirement, which applies to voting in all categories.
The online training is free of charge and will be led by Vernā Myers, Netflix’s VP of Inclusion Strategy.
Harvard alum (law) Myers was named VP of Inclusion Strategy in 2018. For this role, she and her team members create and implement strategies that “integrate cultural diversity, inclusion, and equity” into every corner of Netflix’s global operations. Myers is also the author of two books, “What If I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People” and “Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go From Well-Meaning to Well-Doing.” She has also given a TED talk, “How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them,” which has earned close to 3 million views.
According to the course outline, its goal is to teach viewers how to identify implicit or unconscious bias in their decision-making and correct it. It aims to alter the way voters think about nominees.
The Tony Awards aren’t the first awards show to implement such an approach. In 2020, citing a desire to eliminate ” all-white, all-male” voting shortlists, BAFTA, (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), instituted a similar requirement for their awards, considered the UK version of the OSCARS.
The 2021 Tony Awards emphasized the call for increased diversity and equity on Broadway. Many voters considered the snub of Jeremy O. Harris‘s “Slave Play” to indicate that both industry and voters were too swayed by bias, unconscious or otherwise. Harris is a Black playwright, and his “Slave Play” featured a predominantly Black cast.
The email acknowledges that many of its voters have already taken recognized unconscious bias training courses through affiliated organizations such as the Actors’ Equity, American Theatre Wing, and the Broadway League, which meet the voting eligibility requirements.
Voters must self-attest to have successfully completed the training no later than March 1, 2022 in order to be eligible to vote in the upcoming Tony Awards season.