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Diversity & Gender Equality: Hope is Not a Strategy

Diversity & Gender Equality: Hope is Not a Strategy

On August 9, 2018 Allen Press published an Open Letter to Printing Industries of America Board of Directors questioning why the PIA Board was so blatantly imbalanced when it came to gender diversity. The open letter resulted in avid social media discussion, countless emails and regularly published articles on the subject of gender diversity and equality within the printing industry.

It took Michael Makin and the leadership of the Printing Industries of America 117 days to articulate any kind of formal response to the open letter and subsequent conversations that have dominated printing circles for the past few months.

For some, the response, which was published in Printing Impressions on December 3, could be chalked up to “baby steps”. But for most, it was a disappointment.

Makin’s article lacked three primary points. First, an actual acknowledgement that the printing industry faces a real problem; second, that PIA needs to do more to support gender diversity and equality; and third, a plan for correcting the issue and driving real change within the printing industry.

Instead, Makin’s strategy is “hope”. Hope that the problem will fix itself, hope that the PIA affiliates will elect more women to the national Board of Directors and hope that the same old tried and true practices will somehow turn things around.

Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy and it certainly isn’t a plan.

Makin’s own words perfectly reflect PIA’s lack of strategy as he merely brushes aside the urgency of the matter.

“Accomplishing this objective is easier said than done, however, and we are not the only traditionally male-dominated industry to struggle with this issue. It is not as simple as mandating a quota or demanding a certain percentage on a board,” said Makin in his December 3 article.

We couldn’t disagree more.

In order to begin to move the printing industry in the right direction, immediate action is required. Not hope, not encouragement, but real, tangible action.

We challenge PIA to adopt the following practices and let actions speak louder than words.

1. Acknowledge that there is a diversity problem on the PIA national Board that needs to be corrected now

Take a look at the PIA’s national Board of Directors. If you are a woman or minority, does the printing industry look like a very inviting and inclusive place? Do you feel opportunistic about your chances of growing into a leadership role? Probably not.

We have a problem. Especially when looking at the leadership diversity of AIGA, the American Marketing Association and other industries that intersect with printing.

2. Achieve at least 30% women representation and 25% overall minority representation (regardless of gender) on the PIA national Board of Directors

It’s time to rewrite the rule book. Currently, PIA requires individuals to first serve on the affiliate board before they can be elected to the national board. While that is a very methodical and systematic approach, continuing with this election procedure won’t drive meaningful change. It was Albert Einstein who once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

A firm quota both at the national board and affiliate levels is the first step to driving significant change. Furthermore, PIA should require that a woman is placed on every PIA election ballot. This will finally end the notion that there is a lack of qualified female candidates available.

3. Require all PIA Best Workplace Award applicants to certify that they’ve closed the gender gap

No printing company (or any company for that matter) should be considered a “best workplace” unless it can truthfully guarantee equal pay for women. Additionally, the PIA Best Workplace assessment should ask printers to describe how they closed the gender pay gap. Asking for a description of business practices will lead to the following outcomes:

  • Because gender inequality is an institutionalized, often oblivious mindset, unless companies are proactively implementing strategies to close the gender pay gap, the issue still remains. Many times, businesses that say “we don’t have a gender diversity problem” are the worst offenders. If a company can’t clearly communicate the steps it has taken to eliminate the gender pay gap, it probably hasn’t done so and the PIA can eliminate this company as a Best Workplace Award applicant.
  • By documenting how printers are closing the gender pay gap, PIA can collect important data that the printing industry needs to overcome this issue as a whole. Successful strategies can be shared with other companies in the printing community, leading to faster change across the board

4. Proactively reach out to minority audiences, develop education programs that train printers how to create inclusive workplaces and speak regularly about diversity and inclusivity

PIA leaders (and affiliates) speak regularly on the subject of diversity, however outreach to underrepresented groups is limited, especially at the leadership level. The printing industry needs programs that teach printers how to create inclusive, performance-based workplaces that drive real change. Providing pressroom tours to minority groups and high school students is great, but what about the women and minorities already in our industry? These individuals are grossly underrepresented on leadership teams and board positions. PIA needs specific programs to address this issue and provide support to the women and minorities that want to work and grow in print.

Diversity and gender equality is more than just a printing industry crisis – it’s a global problem. Ignoring the issue just makes our industry look ignorant, uncaring and outdated. Baby steps won’t get results. We need real, drastic change.