Opinion

Looking back on No Man’s Land, and the need to set gender diversity targets

Which-50 editor Tess Bennett looks back on the lessons learned from last month's experiment where the site erased men from the its coverage.

For most of July Which-50 secretly erased men from our coverage. Then we told the world about it.

We documented the process of excluding men and what we learned in a cover story titled No Man’s Land. This piece was accompanied by stories from 22 women about the misogyny they’ve experienced in the workplace titled Men, Sucking.

Due to a lack of social activity from women not sharing stories about themselves as enthusiastically as men do (and prior to publishing No Man’s Land), our traffic was down around 15 per cent for the month. This would have represented our first decline in seven months.  However the strong reaction to the cover story and associated coverage meant July set a new audience record, finishing 7 per cent higher month-on-month. The irony that discrimination drove this success was not lost on us.

More importantly, the two stories got people talking. They were shared close to 1,500 times across social media, picked up by our media peers at sites like Mumbrella, and elicited a broad range of feedback, with readers calling the experiment: interesting, brave, controversial and depressing.

On LinkedIn, Wendy Hogan CX, Marketing and Strategy Director at Oracle commented, “Fascinating and enlightening experiment Andrew Birmingham. Congratulations for your team’s hard work and perseverance to see it through. What a stark reminder for us all to keep focused on eliminating bias in business.”

Many women identified with the stories we published and have approached us with their own experiences and feelings of frustration.

A managing director of a software company reached out to say he hadn’t succeeded in past to improve gender diversity figures, but article like ours would hold people like him to account to persevere and try harder. Which was kinda the whole point.

We also need to try harder. The experiment revealed a major weakness on our part, we don’t have a big enough contact book of female executives.

So while we are being transparent, we have decided to publish our gender diversity figures – ie the number of men and women we name or quote in stories – each month for the rest of the year.

We’ve already made a start with the chart below and will endeavour to update the stats weekly. So we don’t slip back into bad habits, we will also be setting targets to make sure we’re including more female voices in our coverage. In August, our goal is to match last month’s figure of 45 women and build that up to 60 or 70 women by the end of the year.

Why Targets?

Speaking on a panel in Sydney last week, Ming Long, who is the Chair of AMP Capital Funds Management Limited, said she was a proponent of targets “even if it is just to remind us that we are biased in our thinking”.

There won’t be any other changes to our editorial policy, we’ll still cover the same things we’ve always covered, but a deliberate and ongoing effort to combat the bias in our industry will lead to an improved product for our readers, who’ll benefit from a wider range of expertise than we’ve published in the past.

Tess Bennett is the editor of Which-50.com

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