Home » Register » Overcoming Bias and Diversity Issues in Publishing

With all the focus in recent years on bias and diversity, it’s disappointing to learn that these issues are still common in magazine publishing. From gender pay gaps to hiring prejudice to lack of bias and diversity education and training, the industry needs to step up its efforts to level inequalities in the workplace.

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Importance of diversity

There’s little doubt that publishing lacks diversity — not only the content and target audience but also the creators of that content, as well as the many gatekeepers such as reviewers and editors who control its publication. Breaking down racial barriers and pushing for diversity is important for your organization’s health­ both in staffing and in the content you produce.

However, racial bias is only one of many types of bias that publishers need to watch for. Gender, sexuality, age, background, disabilities, and religion shape an individual’s experience of the world; including people of diverse backgrounds provides a variety of perspectives and viewpoints.

It’s healthy for a business to share new ideas and challenge the status quo. And when a business fails to include people with different experiences, beliefs, and ideas, they miss out on great talent and an injection of new and innovative ideas.

Calling out bias

gender biasCreating a diverse environment goes much deeper than hiring people with a variety of backgrounds. It’s about making everyone feel equally appreciated for good performance. Yet gender bias is alive and well in publishing. Despite two thirds of the industry being female, higher-level, higher-paying jobs are disproportionately held by men. More subtle forms of gender bias, such as maternity and child care concerns, can crop up in hiring practices. For instance, comments about a woman’s appearance, however well-intentioned, can make her uncomfortable in a work environment. Inappropriate comments or politically incorrect jokes can create resentment and division. So how do you guard against bias in your publishing operations and encourage diversity?

It starts with awareness

The first step in preventing and correcting bias is making people aware of it. You can’t fix bias by ignoring it, and you can’t fix a lack of diversity without taking active measures to encourage it. There needs to be conversation regarding issues — not for blaming or shaming, but for education and change. Be aware of your own actions and when they might seem biased or inappropriate. Sensitivity training may generate a lot of grumbling and eye rolls from people who believe society is going overboard on political correctness. However, you can’t bring about change without calling attention to what needs to change.

Conversely, it’s important not to make a big deal of your efforts to overcome bias and diversity issues. Calling too much attention to your anti-discriminatory measures can diminish the beneficiaries’ accomplishments. Be inclusionary without being patronizing.

In this day and age, people don’t want to believe that bias and lack of diversity exist in their organizations. But these issues do exist, and the publishing industry is no exception. We are making progress all the time, but only by continuing the dialog, exposing our shortcomings, and working at correcting the inequalities will we be able to fully enjoy the benefits that accompany diversity.

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