Sesame Workshop Creates New Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Role, Elevating Longtime Company Leader Wanda Witherspoon
The move represents the organization’s ongoing commitment to racial justice work, both internally and externally
(New York, NY, March 15, 2021) – Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, today announced the creation of a new executive position: Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO). The appointment of veteran employee Wanda Witherspoon as CDEIO represents a commitment to equity at every level of the organization, signaling an alignment of values across its creative properties and internal business practices. Witherspoon, previously Sesame Workshop’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Special Events, will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Steve Youngwood.
As Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Witherspoon joins Sesame Workshop’s top leadership. She will lead a review of the organization’s global business practices at every level, ensuring that all processes – vendor selection, employee recruitment, staff development, and more – reflect the Workshop’s foundational values. Witherspoon will continue leading multi-level employee discussion groups, enabling her to represent many viewpoints. She will also help teams throughout the organization assess their work through a DEI lens. Witherspoon will retain her Public Affairs responsibilities, guiding Sesame Workshop’s thought leadership and prioritizing external opportunities that drive the organization’s DEI values.
“Having directly witnessed Sesame Workshop’s impact on diverse communities around the world for more than twenty years, I am thrilled to now lead our efforts to ensure that same impact extends within the organization,” said Witherspoon. “As we redouble our efforts to authentically represent and support children everywhere, I look forward to creating sustainable change and opportunities for Sesame Workshop staff that reflect our deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
“From its inception, Sesame Workshop has been a leader in diversity and representation in children’s media; fifty years later, as we address racism and racial justice more directly than ever before, we hope to set an equally strong example with our business practices and culture,” said Youngwood. “Wanda’s deep knowledge and love of the brand, along with her passion for creating growth opportunities for everyone in her orbit make her perfect for the CDEIO role as we step into the Workshop’s future.”
Witherspoon joined Sesame Workshop in 1997. As Vice President of Public Affairs and Special Events, she developed and managed the organization’s many public events and appearances. Highlights included: Sesame Workshop’s annual benefit; United Nations General Assembly events; special productions with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; the Kennedy Center Honors; and countless social impact initiative launches. In the summer of 2020, as racial justice conversations ramped up throughout the country, Witherspoon co-led an ongoing internal committee tasked with supporting senior leadership in DEI matters. She previously worked for 20th Century Fox Television, BET, and Arlington Community Television. Witherspoon is a graduate of Marymount University, Arlington, with a B.A. in Mass Communications and Public Affairs.
Externally, Sesame Workshop’s ongoing commitment to racial justice is represented by a growing body of work designed to help families have productive conversations about race and racism with young children. Resources include: The Power of We, a Sesame Street special with viewing guide to help parents navigate kids’ questions while watching; a CNN x Sesame Street Town Hall called Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism; and a series of shorts featuring The Power of We stars. Learn more at sesameworkshop.org.
About Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit media and educational organization behind Sesame Street, the pioneering television show that has been reaching and teaching children since 1969. Today, Sesame Workshop is an innovative force for change, with a mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. We’re active in more than 150 countries, serving vulnerable children through a wide range of media, formal education, and philanthropically funded social impact programs, each grounded in rigorous research and tailored to the needs and cultures of the communities we serve. For more information, please visit sesameworkshop.org.
Sesame Workshop, VP of Strategic Communications