Being of the female persuasion, I never thought I’d have to defend myself as pro-woman. Yet, two of our four issues this year have seen me called out for gender bias. The first was entirely my fault; blame for the second lies with the critics themselves.
Our second issue of the year, published the day after International Women’s Day, featured a glorious glossy cover of five successful Atlantic Canada entrepreneurs, with one singularly important omission: women. For the record, I sent out a public call for potential candidates via Facebook, Twitter, and our e-newsletter. No women responded. I picked the five entrepreneurs we profiled from a broader list of potential subjects suggested by our contributors, basing my decision on each subject’s accomplishments and my perceived value of their lessons learned. I wasn’t gender biased; I was gender blind.
Our @AtlanticBus twitter account was tagged in a disturbing number of #ipledgeparity comments – and rightfully so. I should have been aware of the gender disparity in the article and consciously corrected it. I wasn’t, I didn’t, and that’s on me.
The second cause for criticism, according to certain Twitter commentators, was that only six of our 2016 Top 50 CEOs were women. Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual – and it has nothing to do with me, or a glass ceiling.
In my 18 years as a magazine editor, I’ve found that women don’t like to talk about themselves and their professional accomplishments. They either outright decline interview requests or are curiously unavailable (for months at a time). And when it comes to award nominations, I’ve found that women are three times as likely as men to refuse an individual award. They say their companies aren’t big enough, or that they aren’t worthy. If it was a team award, they’d be more than happy to be included. But personal recognition? Quite often, the response is ‘No thank you, it’s enough to have been nominated.’
Men, on the other hand, appear to understand that having an award-winning industry expert in charge is a great morale booster for their organization and is inherently a nod to the people who work with them. It’s also a powerful recruitment tool for star talent: people want to work for, and with, winners. Women leaders, unfortunately, don’t seem to get that.
Atlantic Business Magazine WANTS to publish strong female business voices. Our audience NEEDS to hear strong female business voices. Two things need to change in order for that to happen. First, women need to become more comfortable with media attention and being recognized as industry experts. Second, gender parity proponents needs to be more proactive when it comes to nominating women for recognition.
Our critics were quick to recognize when we didn’t have women in the magazine, but they were conspicuously silent when we publicly sought out subjects to interview. If you haven’t nominated a woman for our Top 50 CEO awards, why haven’t you? Why aren’t you tweeting about stories in our magazine that prominently feature women? Why have you never acknowledged that we are the only magazine in Atlantic Canada with a column specifically dedicated to women’s professional development?
For my part, I promise to make conscious efforts to include women at every opportunity. I have instructed our writers to actively seek out women as interview subjects. Further, I am dedicating our January issue to honouring women in business. You can help. Tell me which Atlantic Canada women entrepreneurs we should interview. Recommend women in the corporate sphere whose opinions we should seek. Tell us about women-centric workplace topics you’d like us to consider.
One last thing I’d like you to do for me: pay attention. When we include women interview subjects, comment on their input. When we profile a woman entrepreneur, share her story. Ultimately, it’s your input that directs my decisions about the type of content we publish. You’ve told me what you don’t want. Don’t hold back when it’s something you do want.