Covering diversity requires self-reflection

Plastics News tackles the issue of diversity this week in our first special report on the topic. We plan to make it an annual feature.I’m glad that we got to an opportunity to highlight individual stories, successful companies and interesting programs. Having a diverse workforce is important and, research makes clear, gives employers a variety of benefits. Diverse companies have a competitive edge, and with so many plastics firms having trouble hiring enough people, it doesn’t make sense to limit their talent pool.Reporting on diversity in the plastics industry isn’t enough. When we decided to tackle this topic, I knew we needed to take a look in the mirror, too. I’m going to focus on our editorial staff in these comments, but the record for other departments is similar.PN has a solid record when it comes to hiring and promoting women. In our 32 years of publishing, our workforce has consistently been about half female. That percentage also applies to people with the word “editor” in their title: editor, managing editor, assistant managing editor and news editor. Over the years, women have made up about half of our newsroom leadership.But on race, our record is poor. We’ve had only four Black editorial staffers since 1989 and one Asian editor. Right now we have none. When we have conversations about that, it can be tempting to make excuses. I imagine that’s true for the companies we write about, too, if they have a mostly or all-white workforce.But I’m not going to make excuses. I’ll just say that we need to do better, and we are making an effort. Our parent company, Crain Communications Inc., shares best practices and encourages us to recruit a more diverse workforce. PN isn’t the only brand that’s working to improve.Next, let’s consider coverage. Our subscriber data tells us that most of our readers are middle-age white men, as is in U.S. plastics industry. That’s reflected in our coverage. But we try very hard to bring diversity to our news stories. We’ve done features on women in the industry for decades and made Women Breaking the Mold an annual feature since 2015. In that special report — and others, like our Rising Stars and our CEO Issue — we recruit a diverse mix of people to profile. Once in a while we hear from critics who wonder why we’re trying to profile women, or young people, or minority executives in the industry. But it’s important to reach out to those groups and let the mostly white and male industry hear what they have to say. Next, PN offers an important forum for industry leaders through our events, both in person and online. We have a mission to have diverse speakers at our events, representing women and other ethnic groups besides the predominant white, male speakers who in the past have graced a lot of conferences.At our Plastics Caps & Closures Conference scheduled for Sept. 21-23, for instance, we have six female presenters, including our keynoter, Anne Bedarf of Colgate-Palmolive.It’s a continual work in progress, but we’re striving for a diverse roster of presenters. And our Women Breaking the Mold Conference has become one of our largest events — last year, we had more than 500 attendees for our virtual event.The U.S. manufacturing sector demographic is mostly white and male. Ask any woman or minority who you know in the industry, and they’ll tell you that they are frequently the only ones in rooms full of white men. The industry has much to gain by being more inclusive and diverse. Getting there is tough — I know that from my own experience.Finally, to wrap up with something light, here’s a story about an advantage of having a diverse workforce. For a while, I’ve been in the habit of ending sentences in emails with an ellipsis. It was my shorthand for “you know what I mean,” or something like that — there’s more I could say, but it goes without saying.A few weeks ago, one of our editors mentioned that for millennials, the ellipsis has a negative connotation. Like if I say, “I’m going to be in that meeting…” it means I don’t want them to go.I asked my daughters, and they agreed. One gave this example: “I have to go to work!” vs. “I have to go to work…”Without a millennial editor to set me straight — and not afraid to speak up — I would have gone on misusing the ellipsis for years to come. Now I just need to break … the … habit! Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.Do you have an opinion about this story? Do you have some thoughts you’d like to share with our readers? Plastics News would love to hear from you. Email your letter to Editor at Staying current is easy with Plastics News delivered straight to your inbox, free of charge. Subscribe to Plastics News Plastics News covers the business of the global plastics industry. We report news, gather data and deliver timely information that provides our readers with a competitive advantage.Customer Service:

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