A founder takes a close look at the pages of Inc. and doesn't exactly like what she sees when it comes to diversity. By Liza Kindred (Founder & CEO, Third Wave Fashion)
Dear Mr. Eric Schurenberg,
Please don’t forget that it’s not only white men who matter in today’s entrepreneurial landscape.
I’m sure you know that it’s nothing new to publish a business magazine with a white man on the cover; most of them do. But your Editor’s Letter in this month’s Inc. Magazine really got me hot under the collar… and then I started paying more attention to what I was seeing in your magazine. It was, in a word, shameful.
Rich old businessman have always called the tune in American politics, at least since Massachusetts merchants and Virginia planters led a revolt against Britain. The next generation of rich old men, however, seems to be starting awfully young.
This is how your letter starts out – with no irony. You then went on to list three rich and politically influential young men. There is no mention of any woman in your letter, save for in the last paragraph, when female gender is used when talking about a mythical entrepreneur of the future. There is also no mention of slavery or race, two things that should not be ignored when lauding the rich olde white men of yore.
Honestly, Mr. Schurenberg, I just skipped past this at first. According to your picture, you are an older white man, and I presume that you are relatively well paid. (You should be; your accomplishments are impressive.) This kind of tone-deaf writing from a person of apparent privilege is, again, nothing new.
However, as I flipped through the pages of your magazine – one that I love – I became infuriated.
You should know that I adore Inc. Magazine. I did work for you through my last technology company, I’ve spent weeks working from your beautiful offices, and I’ve twice attended and been inspired by your Inc. 5000 Conference. You have great content. I feel, as a result of this love, that I can’t just quietly let women and minorities slip from your radar.
I did a quick pass at images from the latest issue of your magazine. I thought you might want to know what I found:
Evident gender of the people shown in the editorial section of the May 2013 issue of Inc. Magazine:
Of these four women:
- two are actresses
- one is a mode
- one is an actual columnist
- The female columnist wrote an article that is accompanied by an illustration of a women turning into a monster when she becomes an entrepreneur
- There are two other images of groups of women that I don’t count here: one group of women baking on an assembly line and one group of women sorting tomatoes on an assembly line.
Mr. Schurenberg, I couldn’t make this stuff up. I also looked at the apparent race of those men. You’ve got to see this.
Evident race of the men shown in the editorial section of the May 2013 issue of Inc. Magazine:
- I didn’t count the image of a large group of Papa New Guineans listening to a white man talking.
Your ads do somewhat better – maybe your marketers could remind you of the importance of diversity. TED, Verizon, Entrepreneur’s Organization, and FedEx all remember women. But to be honest, even your adviertisers could use some help. Here’s some examples of how women are shown in your ads:
- a woman watching a man enjoying a steak
- a woman in an apron
- a cartoon of a woman receptionist
- a women wearing a dress, drinking wine, looking at art
- a women working at a tradeshow booth
- a nurse
- women executives in an ad marketing to baby boomers
There are two images of young girls in your magazine. There is one in an ad where she is looking at art; the other is a feature where the young girl is being photographed by two adult men with the caption that says "You Look Fabulous." Ick. I have a 13-year-old daughter who I wouldn’t want looking at your magazine.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing, Mr. Schurenberg? Mr. Schurenberg, I’m not asking for more profile pieces that call out women or minority entrepreneurs. I am asking for you to remember that women and minorities make up an essential part of the entrepreneurial community. We don’t want to be held up; we want to be included.
It’s well into the 21st centruy, and we should be working together to weed out the nuances of sexism. This type of omission isn’t nuanced; it’s obvious and painful. And it’s insidious – and there is a great deal of danger in these messages.
If you’re having trouble finding women entrepreneurs, try looking at this post from my friend Swiss Miss (there is gold in the comments), ask my dear friends at the Women Innovate Mobile accelerator, explore the Women 2.0 site, ask me about the hundreds of women founders in our fashion tech database or hey – let’s have coffee!
It’s doubtful that you’re intentionally excluding anyone, Mr. Schurenberg. But reading your last issue made me feel ostracized from the Inc. entrepreneurial community. I thought you’d want to know.
Thanks for taking the time to think about this.
This post was originally posted at Third Wave Fashion.
Women 2.0 readers: Do you think the media accurately reflects the diversity of the startup community?
About the guest blogger: Liza Kindred is Founder and CEO of Third Wave Fashion. A passionate believer in open business, Liza’s last stint was as Managing Partner at a successful web development and education company. She opened her first business at the age of 22. Liza is a strong advocate for open business practices, and has been consulting for business startups. Follow her on Twitter at @LizaK.