Wear Your Voice is Providing More Opportunities for Underrepresented Voices in the Publishing Industry
“As a South Asian woman growing up in a traditional Indian family, I was often shut out of important decision-making processes. South Asians in tech are usually delegated to males who do not create pipelines for underrepresented communities within their field. Hopefully, my presence will help change that.”— Ravneet Vohra, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Wear Your Voice
Today, as we near the end of the first quarter of 2016, Wear Your Voice is releasing our first diversity report. As we grow into our second year, self-auditing early allows us to continue to put intersectionality and diversity at the forefront of our business practices and allow the public hold us accountable. Our diversity report not only illuminates our strengths, it also sheds light on ways in which we can improve our effort to diversify media.
In January of this year, Lee & Low Books released the 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey Results, which measured diversity among publishing staff. The survey took a year to complete and included responses from eight review journals and 34 publishers of various sizes across North America.
The results of the DBS revealed that the lack of diversity in the publishing industry looks discouragingly similar to the tech industry. While the publishing industry employs more cis-women, the numbers are overwhelmingly white and don’t include trans perspectives and experiences. According to DBS’s study, 79 percent of people in the publishing industry overall are white; at the executive level, the percentage jumps to 86 percent.
As a startup company based in Oakland, we are at the heart of the tech boom’s expansion. Oakland is a historic hub of social activism, which makes it especially important to set and maintain standards of diversity within workplaces here — especially in media. Not only is there a lack of diverse representation within these companies; that lack of representation shapes what gets published in ways that don’t represent the populous. Even if the stories are being covered, who is telling them? Whose voices will be recorded in the annals of history? As curators and producers of content, we have to ask ourselves these questions to hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard. We must do so in order to move beyond a history in which publishing was dominated by white cis-men.
We’re not waiting for other media outlets to do it. We’re taking those steps ourselves. And we’re asking for input and support as our company continues to grow as a leading voice on diversity. We need you to wear your voice. With your help, we can challenge outdated cultural standards, create better practices and set the bar for others. Because diversity in media matters.
The staff identification survey went to Wear Your Voice’s team of 25 contributing writers, editors, graphic designers and social media managers. The survey was anonymous and voluntary; of the 25 to whom the survey was sent, all 25 participated.
Breaking Down the Numbers
Company Diversity: Overall
Racial and ethnic identity
Survey results show that more than 64 percent identify as a person of color. 32 percent (8) of Wear Your Voice staff identify as white, 28 percent (7) identify as Black/African/of the African Diaspora, 16 percent (4) identify as Asian/Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 12 percent (3) identify as Latinx, 8 percent (2) identify as South Asian and 4 percent (1) identified as Native American. Of the participants, none identified as a member of a federally recognized tribe or as Middle Eastern.
The survey shows that 76 percent (19) participants are cis-women, 12 percent (3) are non-binary and 4 percent (1) identified as cis-male. Trans Men and Women each make up 4 percent (2) of Wear Your Voice’s contributing writers.
48 percent (12) identify as heterosexual, while 40 percent (10) identify as queer. For each group, 4 percent each identify as lesbian (1), pansexual (1) or bisexual (1).
72 percent do not identify with a disability while 28 percent identify as people with disabilities.
Lack of diversity in many publications’ decision-making processes continues to be a major problem that affects all racial and ethnic groups, as well as LGBTQ and disabled communities. According to the DBS report, Native Americans/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern, and LGBTQ persons are the least represented, with just 1 percent of these groups holding senior positions. Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics make up 2 percent of publishing leaders; disabled persons make up 4 percent and Asian and Pacific Islanders make up 7 percent.
Here’s what the numbers show about senior-level representation at Wear Your Voice:
50 percent (3) of the respondents identify as white, 16.7 percent (1) identify as Latinx.,16.7 percent (1) identify as Black/African/of the African Diaspora, 16.7 percent (1) identified as South Asian.
According to the survey, 100 percent of the Wear Your Voice senior staff identify as cis-women.
Among the executive team, 66.7 percent (4) identify as queer and 33.3 (2) identify as heterosexual.
When asked if they identify as a person with disabilities, 88.3 percent (5) answered no, while 16.7 percent (1) said yes.
On race and ethnic identity:
We have separated South Asian from Asian and Pacific Islander because, in the Bay Area, South Asians represent the largest portion of Asian workers in the tech industry.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-quarters have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.
While the senior team at Wear Your Voice absolutely sees those who identify as trans equal to those who identify as cis, currently all executive positions are held by cis-women. We acknowledge and value the perspective and experience trans individuals possess. Cis-women and trans women may share a gender identity, but cis-women will never truly know the struggle of trans women, and must honor those experiences and give them space to exist without co-opting them. Support and representation is a must within the industry.
A note on sexual orientation:
While this question may seem invasive, it is an important statistic regarding voices in media. We are a very political publication and LGBTQIA issues are important to all of us. In order to properly represent the group, we have to have folks writing for us that come from a range of orientations.
Employing people who identify as a person with disabilities:
Employing people with disabilities is incredibly important, especially when it comes to writers who are able to work from the comfort of their own homes, at their own pace. The traditional capitalist approach is inherently ableist. Those with disabilities often cannot adhere to a demanding 9-to-5 schedule, which often prioritizes productivity above actual humans and their needs.
Our brand of conscientious capitalism allows us to have a workforce of many voices with a variety of needs and abilities, which makes each and every one of us examine our own behaviors and allows us to grow. It also helps bring these voices, often silenced due to lack of opportunity, to the magazine.
Setting Clear Objectives
Moving forward, we see where we lack representation and will focus on hiring talent to fill those roles. As our senior positions expand, we will seek out those who identify within marginalized and under-represented groups. With regular auditing, we enable ourselves to grow as a business and as a publication, and show the public exactly what they can expect from us.
Readers can trust us to insist on a pool of diverse candidates when hiring, to seek persons of marginalized identities with strong communication, leadership, and community-building skills, and to bring in mid-career writers of color who may be overlooked for leadership roles because of biased hiring practices.
In the future, we hope to create ways for gifted young writers in marginalized groups to connect and build networks, magnifying their voices within and beyond our publication.
We’ve formulated four clear objectives on how we will support inclusivity:
- Make sure the people writing about topics from marginalized communities are actually members of those communities.
- Thoroughly scan our content and stories for areas that lack representation. At WYV, we are true to our name — elevating ALL voices.
- Provide opportunities for interns of color.
- Support local communities by recruiting the bulk of our hiring pool from Oakland, rather than outsourcing for talent. This will ensure that we’re helping keep Oakland artists from being priced out of their communities.
- Support media publications that provide opportunities for women in tech, marginalized groups and people of color, such as Lee & Lo Books and & Other Stories, as well as organizations such as We Need Diverse Books and First Books Stories For All that promote inclusivity through children’s books.
From the Wear Your Voice Team: Ravneet Vohra, Monica Cadena, Laurel Dickman, Elly Garcia, Beth Winegarner.