This is the third in a five-part series in which I pose important questions for B2B media. You can see Part One by clicking here. Check out Part Two by clicking here.
If you're reading this, odds are you're white.
Since I started my consulting business a few years ago, I've had the chance to visit dozens of B2B publications. I've also had the chance to speak at tradeshows run by Folio magazine, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and American Business Media.
And everywhere I've gone I've looked out upon audiences made up almost entirely of white people.
It's really begun to drive me nuts.
Sure, every once in awhile I'll see a few Asian folks. That's particularly true in New York and California. And sometimes I'll meet someone with a Spanish surname.
But of the roughly 1,000 U.S.-based B2B journalists I've met, no more than a dozen or so were black, Arabic or South Asian.
It's been nearly two years since I first wrote about this issue. Back then, after a visiting a series of white-dominated businesses, I said "it has become positively creepy to visit your newsrooms." And I assure you that the creepiness factor has only increased.
In addition to the whiteness factor, here are some other things I have noted:
1. An absence of black folks in the newsroom does not reflect the numbers of blacks in a community. Even in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Kansas City -- all of which have substantial numbers of black residents -- B2B news staffers are overwhelmingly white.
2. The lack of black folks in a newsroom does not correspond to a lack of black folks at the company. When I wander outside even the whitest of the white newsrooms, I tend to run into substantial numbers of black people in support jobs -- payroll, circulation, reception, etc.
3. When I ask executives about the lack of minority journalists at their publications, the answer I'm most likely to receive is some variation of "we just don't get many minority candidates."
4. When I ask executives what, if any, recruiting they do that is aimed at minority candidates, the answer is almost always "none."
5. When I visit college campuses, or speak to groups of college students at journalism conferences, it is clear that part of the problem begins at the universities. The numbers of minority students at most schools is dissapointingly small.
6. It's also clear that few if any schools consider trade publishing a suitable destination for their graduates. So even schools that have large numbers of minority students tend not to funnel those kids toward us.
7. B2B's shortcomings involve race and ethnic background, not gender. I am not aware of a single B2B publication that has a problem recruiting women for entry-level jobs. Journalism schools tend to attract a good number of female students. And although it is possible to argue that management remains a male-dominated realm, the number of women in management jobs at most B2B publishers dwarfs the number of minority employees at any level in editorial.
It's worse for us
It is clear that this problem -- although present to lesser degrees across all media -- is massive in B2B. Newspapers don't have a problem this big. Television, particularly among on-air personalities, both national and local, doesn't have a problem this big. Radio is considerably more diverse. Online-only consumer news is far more diverse. B2C publishing doesn't have a problem like we do. I've worked in all those fields. And it's only in B2B where the lack of diversity is so glaring, so obvious and so overwhelming that it makes my skin crawl.
In a global economy, there are compelling reasons to diversify a workforce.
But I don't want to talk about those today. Because the more I think about this issue, the more it becomes clear to me that the problem here isn't about motivation. It's about effort.
Far too few B2B executives and senior editorial staffers put enough effort into recruiting minority journalists. Far too few of us visit historically black colleges. Far too few of us post our jobs on sites that cater to minority journalists (examples are here, here and here.) We don't do enough. That is clear to me.
What is unclear is the reason. Is B2B more racist? Is there something about this industry that attracts and rewards prejudiced people? Or is it some other character flaw? Are we lazier? Less concerned with social issues? Are we more easily defeated? Prone to giving in more readily in the face of difficult tasks?
And so this is today's question:
What is it about B2B in general, and your company in particular, that causes our race problem?
(Disclosure: I am a member of the most common demographic in B2B publishing -- I am a middle-aged, white, male.)
tags: journalism, b2b, media, trade press, magazines, newsletters, business media