Dr. Debonair Oates-Primus
Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | Oak View Group


Joining a relatively new company to help lead a relatively new DEI program, Debonair Oates-Primus has been busy and has much to show for her efforts. She notes Phase 1 of an Inclusive Leadership Development program, which launched in January of 2023.

“(It’s) a DE&I training program aimed at educating our leaders on topics such as bias awareness, cultivating diverse top talent, becoming allies, and how to have courageous conversations,” said Oates-Primus, Oak View Group’s vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. The program requires each leader committing to six weeks of 90 minutes per week of instructor-led training. “We kicked off our program with all of our executive committee completing the sessions and then over the course of last year over 700 of our leaders participated in the training. That’s 222 sessions offered and 270 hours of DE&I training.”

Oates-Primus joined OVG, VenuesNow’s parent company, in 2022 to oversee DEI strategies, programs and initiatives. The Philadelphia native has more than 12 years of experience in higher education, holding a Ph.D. in literature and criticism, with a concentration in critical race theory and intersectional feminism. She reports to OVG Chief People and Culture Officer Ann Jackson.

She notes an HBCU initiative as another win since joining OVG.

“We offer career readiness strategies, host speaker sessions for students, mentorship, and provide experiential learning to help close the opportunity gap for students at HBCUs,” she said. “It’s a part of a comprehensive diverse recruitment strategy. Currently, we’ve visited six HBCUs in the month of February, facilitated four student engagement events. We’ve already seen significant increase in our applicant pools and internship offers.”

Those efforts will surely help make for a diverse talent pool for the rapidly growing company to choose from and cultivate, but Oates-Primus calls the overall state of women in the business as a mixed bag.

“I think the state of women in live entertainment, like other inclusion journeys in other industries, is a mixed bag,” she said. “There’s been undeniable progress, with more women taking center stage and holding leadership roles behind the scenes. Women are headlining tours, running festivals, and holding key production positions. The success of female artists and leaders is paving the way for future generations. Organizations like Women in Live Music (WILM) are fostering community and advocating for change. However, significant challenges remain such as the gender gap in roles like sound engineering and lighting design and leadership roles are still male dominated. With all that said, dismantling systems of bias is a sustained effort, and the road ahead is so promising.”


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