Where are all the mamas?

KLOWTIFY Insights Team

When I started my research into exactly how diverse digital media outlets actually present for the average end user, I already knew what I would find. Women, and even more acutely, women of color, would be underrepresented, and in some of the most egregious cases, completely absent — in arenas of power, leadership and influence — in mainstream news media. And even as I barely dip my toe into the data, I have to ask:

Where are all the mamas?

This intrinsic knowledge, that we won’t be equally represented, is just par for the course for women and people of color, developed innately from years of entering into spaces that are dominated by men and by White perspectives. It is born of absence. When I sit down to scroll the news, to learn about what’s happening in politics, at my State Capitol, in the nation’s business news, or on Wall Street, the thing I can expect NOT to find is authority and expertise coming from authors like me.

In fact, when I click on a story of interest and find that it was authored by a woman, or by a person of color, I take note, because it is not the standard — it’s the exception. The token female wealth management advisor, or the token Black journalist impossibly trying to represent for all people of color — a one-size fits all voice — because he is, quite literally, the only perspective of color in the entire pool of reporters at his organization.

And don’t get me started on diversity in source opportunities. When those beat reporters hit the streets for quotes and information to include in their stories, they must be working from overstuffed rolodexes of White men working in top positions at legacy firms. How else might the lack of gender and racial diversity be explained?

So how does one find an expert that is a woman or a person of color out in the wild?

Take Arizent, for example. In a recent proprietary data finding, a top Arizent brand was found to be lagging on equitable representation in every category against the national demographic. There is not enough time or space in this blog post to get into all areas in which this publication needs to make improvements. So I will focus on the three that I found most eye-popping.

  1. 100% of the C-Suite team — as published on their masthead as of July 25th, 2023 — are men. Zero women represented in top decision-making roles. There is one woman listed, but she left the company more than a month ago, and the masthead has not been updated to reflect her departure or replacement.
  2. Only 2% of external sources used across the 61 stories evaluated were people of color, despite nearly 42% of America’s demographic self-identifying as other than White, according to the most recent census data. Even within the predominantly White financial services industry, 22% of professionals identify as BIPOC (more on this below). So why aren’t they being included as experts in news stories?
  3. As for image representation, the data indicates that this publication is doing relatively well compared to other metrics (including Leadership, Reporters, Sources, and Channel Promotion), clocking in at 36% BIPOC representation in image selections, against 42% of the national population.

You have to wonder: Why, when all other categories are so underrepresented, would this metric — people of color portrayed in article images — be closer to parity with the population? So you dig deeper.

Turns out, when images are assigned a general category based on the roles in which they depict people (e.g. leaders/professionals, workers/uniform, leisure/consumer), it begins to illuminate some context.

Sure, their images are plentiful, but people of color are almost never shown as leaders or professionals — those roles are almost exclusively reserved for White people, largely White men. People of color are far more commonly featured as workers or consumers.

To be sure, you might note that finance as an industry skews White and male. According to the CFA Institute and as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 84% of finance professionals identify as White, 5% as Black/African American, 9% Asian, and 8% Hispanic/Latinx. So even in finance news, we’d want to see somewhere in the ballpark of 22% of sources and images depicting people that reflect BIPOC perspectives.

And in more empowered positions, not predominantly subservient or labor roles.

Women in financial services have their own battles to fight. According to Investopedia, “From 2007 to 2019, male directors outpaced female directors by a ratio of 20:1.” And worse: ladies aren’t likely to see themselves reflected in financial news pages either. Director-level titles are a key component of the problem, because it usually takes a Director title or above to be considered as an expert and to land an opinion submission or to be quoted as an industry source.

But if the industry-wide gender gap at the Director level is 20:1 in favor of men, maybe there is a glimmer of hope, with women at this particular publication representing a 1:9 ratio in overall management (albeit zero C-suite positions); 1:5 source opportunities; and 1:4 in opinion articles featured by the outlet.

From the work of Melinda French Gates and Pivotal Ventures to drive parity in political leadership, to the work of other foundations working tirelessly to close gender and racial gaps in American society such as Vote Mama, the Ida B. Wells Society, and Invest in Girls — there is hope for change.

But the road to equality and equal representation remains a long and arduous one for women and people of color. If we really want to move the needle, we need to ensure that when people seek information, news pages are portraying a diverse and representative reflection of who constitutes an expert.