Is This Really the Best We Can Do?

I just got the latest issue of CEO Update (v. XXI, #537, December 16 and 30, 2011) in the mail. Either as a result of the slowdown in hiring or the changing needs of the market or both, CEO Update is a lot more than just job openings these days. They’ve expanded their coverage to do some actual reporting on the state of the association industry.

So I open it up to the centerfold, which is the Top 25 CEO Quotes of 2011.

25 people

2 women

23 men

0 people of color

For those who don’t want to do the math at home, that’s 8% women, 92% men, 0% non-white (that last one was pretty easy to calculate).

When I was actively supporting the CAE study program (2004 – 2010), we used to tell candidates to plan to answer questions on the exam from the perspective of a 65 year old white man. In 2009 (? possibly 2008), someone got offended, so we removed that from our advice. In retrospect, I think we did the candidates a disservice, because even though it may not be PC to point it out, it *remains* true.

Do I sound pissed? Good, because I am.

And I’m not just talking about throwing in some faux-United Colors of Benetton “diverse” stock photo here. This goes deeper. The CEO Update editors sat down and thought: “What were the best CEO insights of the year?” And they came up with insights from 25 white people.

Some worry that associations as a concept may be at risk due to social and technological changes. I think that if, after all these years, this is the best we can do, maybe we deserve to be extinct.

7 thoughts on “Is This Really the Best We Can Do?”

  • I just had a similar reaction when I looked at a list of 30+ thought leaders for an industry conference, almost every single one of them was white.

    It really makes me wonder if we have true commitment to diversity and inclusion, and if people really are affirmative in their efforts to cast a wider net beyond the usual suspects (of which I acknowledge I often can ben one).

    Yes, we can do better and we simply must. But it really seems like a major shift in thinking and action is going to be required.

  • Stefanie Reeves says:

    Thank you Elizabeth for this excellent post. I just posted this to the DELP Facebook page so my colleagues are aware. What I'm curious about is how CEO Update couldn't find one quotable CEO of color this year. The lack of women is just as bad. What is it going to take to turn things around?

  • I think the answer to Jeffrey's question about whether we have a true commitment to diversity and inclusion is clear: no we don't. The association industry pays a lot of lip service to diversity and inclusion, and while some individual associations certainly do more than that, the proof is in the pudding–the pudding being articles like the one you mention here.

    I don't subscribe to CEO Update, but if I did, you can bet I'd be unsubscribing because of something like this. I think this is an easy case of put your money where your mouth is; if enough people refuse to pay for “insights” like this, maybe they'll be forced to change/work a bit harder to feature a more balanced POV.

  • I hate to even suggest this because it will enflame those who equate diversity with a quota system, but metrics do matter and get people's attention. Publishing numbers like these raises the issue and might spur people to action. Whether it is an individual blog post or Tweet or a more comprehensive review of a variety of publications, conference programs, etc. making the info public in a meaningful way may be a part of the solution.

    And FWIW, the February Associations Now will contain a Horizons column I authored as a result of my blog post earlier this year on this very subject.

  • Elizabeth: Thank you so much for posting this! It reinforces the current state of the association community and the lack of commitment to diversity. If the needle is ever going to move (just a little), we need to continue having these kinds of conversations. It certainly isn't easy and at times may be uncomfortable but we have to start somewhere.

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