Tag Archives: media

The Financial Necessity of Diversity

Graphic via American Progress

In yet another article regarding “the new tech industry” and diversity, the question of whether it will serve as the silver bullet to address the old economy’s racial problems is asked. As we’ve read over the last months, the tech industry has significant diversity issues to overcome. Whether it’s education, talent, culture, or systemic – the lack of diversity won’t be solved anytime soon (sorry to say). Investing millions into new diversity initiatives is a positive step, however, it won’t change decades of cultural and structural barriers ingrained in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Even if they didn’t care about diversity for all its benefits, tech organizations should be intimately familiar with a large chunk of its market and potential workforce (women, Latinos, African Americans). Other industries are coming to understand how critical it is to integrate specific demographic groups into their workforce – not because its an HR initiative but because they see it as a financial necessity. Consider television networks that are losing market share to on-demand services:

Latino viewers are an increasingly important demographic for all networks. The Nielsen Company found that Hispanics in the US have over $1 trillion in purchasing power and represent more than half of US population growth between 2000-2010. Bi-lingual homes where both Spanish and English are spoken currently watch about 50% Spanish-language television, while English-dominant Hispanic households watch a mere 3% of Spanish-language TV. In other words, television networks need to win over this audience if they want to make up the shortfall left by formally loyal absconders. But at the moment few networks are catering for Latinos specifically.

The tech industry will only come to understand the opportunity of diversity when it’s presented in the form of profits/losses or market share. I think the industry will certainly come to recognize this in the long-term – which makes the future a bit brighter.

America by the Numbers


Great Boston Globe piece on long time Latina journalist Maria Hinojosa’s series, America by the Numbers. I’ve watched a few of these episodes and find them refreshing. As the article notes, each demographic change tells a story. Hinojosa makes a sincere effort to understand what these changes mean not only to the group in focus but the U.S. as whole. She’s filling a much needed gap for intelligent and informative discussions on multicultural America, which often isn’t addressed by most mainstream media:

Hinojosa’s content is resonating in part because it does not approach the demographic changes with an inherent sense of controversy, like much of the media do. “The sentiment in many mainstream media newsrooms . . . is that the conversation around demographic change, the Hispanicizing of America, the browning of America . . . was often met with a sense of fear,” says Hinojosa, who was born in Mexico City and grew up in Chicago. “And because I am an American journalist 100 percent but I’m also 100 percent part of that demographic change, I don’t approach this change from a place of fear and panic. I approach it as a journalist and trying to understand what this means.”

Hinojosa is shedding a light on the corners of a new multicultural reality in America, and it’s working. “America by the Numbers” doubled the number of African-American and Latino viewers that typically watch PBS programming, while also maintaining the established audience for PBS news and public affairs.

 

Arriba, Arriba, and Away!

Graphic via ComicVine.com

I wasn’t much of a comic book reader as a kid but knew most classic super heroes. As the comic book industry grows leaps and bounds (pun intended), it’s nice to see that some very talented and creative Latino artists are taking diversity and inclusion to a much different level. Granted, some Latino super hero powers are still stereotyped, but hopefully this will change – not only because of Latino artists – but because of the market:

But times are changing as awareness grows that the high proportion of white men working in the comics industry is not reflective of the greater population and the potential readership market. The data crunching website FiveThirtyEight.com recently ran the numbers and found that while attendance at comic book conventions split fairly evenly between genders, only one in four comic book characters is female. Now, as the comics industry is trying to better reflect the market’s demographics, Latinos are slowly growing in influence.

Seen But Not Heard

One of my favorites on the subject of diversity is Tanya Odom. She recently shared thoughts on President Obama’s last news conference for 2014. In case you missed it, President Obama took questions only from women reporters; he didn’t call on any male correspondents – by the way, expressions from male reporters in the video link above is priceless.

Tanya refers to President Obama’s goal here as a “teachable moment.” One that highlights what most women and people of color must endure everyday in the workforce, education, and  particularly, in the media.

The media exerts a powerful influence on our attitudes. How is it that our world has changed so much in the last decades, and yet, women still lag behind men in prestigious professional roles? Invisibility is harmful. Moreover, people who might have intersecting identities (e.g., black women, Latino gay person) may experience “intersectional invisibility,” which is just as challenging.

Old News

No where is the lack of diversity in organizations more evident than in the news media. Back in May (sorry I wasn’t around for this one), MSNBC stereotyped Latinos as tequila drinking fools. About the same time, NYT ‘s Upshot made some silly assumptions about Latino identity and race. And yet again today, Upshot selects an ill advised photo of Colombian dancers as way to portray Latinos as fiesta party people in discussing Republicans and the Latino vote.

In each of these cases, a Latino on staff might have said, “You know what guys……this might not work….”

Unfortunately, the lack of diversity in newsrooms is still apparent – and unfortunate.