Washington Post Takes on (Lack of) Newsroom Diversity: Falling Short Could be Fatal
Will diversity ever go out of fashion? I ask this because last week was full of surveys and reports on minority counts and how we’re continuously failing to diversify. I’d like to highlight a couple of them that not only deserve some analysis, but matter to our careers and everyday professional existence.
A new survey by executive search firm Wesley, Brown & Bartle (WB&B) paints a bleak picture for minorities in senior management ranks. According to their survey, if “an equally credentialed Black or Latino executive is one of three finalists for an open position, their respective chance of getting the job offer is not one in three but one in 33.” The survey, rightly, also points out that for executive hiring at least, the ultimate decision lies not only with the hiring manager but also the CEO’s “personal commitment to diversity.” And this recession has diminished the progress made in recent decades in ensuring diversity among the top ranks, with numerous reports suggesting minorities and women have suffered the most by layoffs and cost cutting.
The second report was by The Washington Post‘s Ombudsman Andrew Alexander this weekend discussing the Post’s internal diversity. Considering that news organizations have made giant leaps in addressing diversity, it is sobering to see that it remains far from enough. While 43% of the Post’s readership comes from minorities, its newsroom’s tally comes at 24%. Notably, Alexander does address the dominant place diversity has taken in our workplace culture. It used to be about altruism but today it is about the bottom line and remaining relevant in the business. Lack of diverse thought and perspective is pushing consumers away and without demand, there is no business model. As he puts it, “Back when newspapers generated huge profits, altruism often drove diversity efforts. Today, there’s an urgent business imperative. For the Post, struggling to regain profitability and retain subscribers, reaching expanding minority audiences represents opportunity–and perhaps survival.”
He also notes another important factor that seems to be on the rise at companies in recent years: Retaining and promoting minorities remains harder than the hiring. Alexander alludes to it, saying that including minority candidates in the pool is a mandate that all hiring managers know, but who eventually gets the job is a much grayer area. And because personnel development and leadership initiatives require budgetary considerations, diligent enforcement and repeated emphasis to diversity of thought in the work culture, they get easily forgotten.
For sure, this isn’t strictly a Post issue. Especially post-recession, increasing minority ranks in one’s company couldn’t be further down on the priority list. And when there is an easy excuse at hand (Haven’t you heard, we’re in the middle of a recession!) relegating diversity initiatives to the last page becomes a trend. Not addressing this, however, might become the deal breaker for your company’s sustainability in a time when “Corporate Sustainability” and “CSR” are making the rounds of boardrooms and the corner office, not only by concerned employees and consumers, but for some, shareholders as well.
What do you think? Has your employer scaled back its leadership initiatives? Your feedback and comments make this an engaged discussion, so keep writing in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or following us on Twitter @VaultCSR!