Amid coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world, the lack of diverse voices in Irish media speaks volumes, writes Elaine Burke.
I’m not about to use my weekly column to share my view of the Black Lives Matter protests now spreading across the world, because the opinion of a white Irish editor is not needed here.
At Silicon Republic, we pride ourselves as being champions of diversity and inclusion, but we don’t have a single person of colour on our writing staff of six. I can attempt to reason this out by citing numbers and statistics, but that would be a worthless exercise that misses the point. We, like many other media sources in Ireland, are lacking in diverse voices, and that is a failing we must own up to – without excuse or explanation.
When our CEO Ann O’Dea launched our Women Invent campaign back in 2013, we set out to amplify the voices of women in STEM, as we identified this group as an unjustifiable minority. Since then, our campaigning has evolved. Gender was not the only inequality to be addressed in STEM and, before it was a common corporate initiative, we began championing greater diversity and inclusion in STEM overall. We do this through our media coverage and our events, ensuring that we include a wide variety of perspectives on our pages and on our stages.
‘Media sources in Ireland, are lacking in diverse voices, and that is a failing we must own up to – without excuse or explanation’
But what about diversity in media production? Amid the coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement, the unequal representation of people of colour working in Irish media in particular has been highlighted. Writers such as The Irish Times’ Sorcha Pollack and Naomi O’Leary, Aoife Barry from The Journal, and ex-Silicon Republic staffer Dean Van Nguyen have voiced concern and criticism, as well as offering support for change.
And I have to stop and think, as an editor, what can I do? Well first of all, I must recognise that it’s not for me to decide what’s best for marginalised writers. The first step is listening to these writers and learning what supports they want and need so we can move that needle.
When it came to gender diversity in STEM, we did not accept excuses that “the women are not here”, “the women don’t apply” and “the women leave the industry”. We challenged these explanations at the source. Why aren’t there more women here? Why don’t they apply for these roles? Why do they leave the industry?
It’s time now to direct this line of questioning elsewhere. Why aren’t there more diverse voices in Irish media? Why aren’t more people of colour entering the industry as Ireland has become more multicultural? Where are the leaks in the pipeline? If you can blame your problems on numbers, then let’s study those numbers and see how they can be improved. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the problem isn’t you and your approach.
‘This is time to shut up, listen and pass the mic’
This is not a time for a white editor running an all-white writing team to make suggestions and have opinions. This is time to shut up, listen and pass the mic. There’s a weekly column published here on Siliconrepublic.com and in our ezine, and it’s not always me who has to speak from that platform.
Meanwhile, we never stopped the Women Invent campaign which spotlights a woman in STEM in a feature article each week. We’re well aware that a commitment to diversity and inclusion has to be more than a branded sticky plaster. It has to go deep and it’s not about putting yourself at the centre of the effort.
The Women Invent campaign will go on for a long time, if the World Economic Forum’s assessment of how long it will take to reach gender pay parity is anything to go by. But we’re in it for the long haul, not for the cookies.
We still actively review our interviewees list across the site and ensure we are striking a balance of gender representation. The majority of pitches we receive are to speak to straight white cis men, but we choose to put in the effort to find other voices.
So what can we do to make sure that black voices matter? We can start by making an effort.
Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.