Diversity in publishing – stillhideously middle-class and white?
In December 2015, British publishingstood accused of woeful blindness to diversity, and not for the first time, after World Book Night (WBN) announced its titles, and none of the 15 books was by a writer of color. An apology was issued by organizers, but a wider malaise had already set in, and along with it, the troubling feeling that WBN’s oversight was less an isolated incident and more a recurring pattern of exclusion that stretched across the literary establishment.
A report on the state of the books industry had been published earlier that year which drew attention tohow intransigently white, middle-class and male it remained, from literary festivals and prizes to publications and personnel.
The industry has been announcing strategies for change since 2015. Publishing houses have rolled out paid internships, mentoring schemes and traineeships to attract socially under-represented and BAME(black, Asian, minority ethnic groups)applicants on an unprecedented scale, as well as creating opportunities for women to move into boardrooms.
To name few recent initiatives: Penguin Random House is offering interest-free rent loans to draw more applicants from outside London, and has set a company goal “for all new hires and the books we acquire to reflect UK society by 2025 in terms of social mobility, ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexuality”. Harper Collins is launching programs for BAME employees and those taking long-term parental leave, whileHachetteis encouraging diversity at an executive level in a mentoring scheme with board members.
Some schemes show promising signs. Penguin’s campaign, which connects aspiring writers from socially excluded communities to agents, editors and authors, ishelping to demystify these professions.
Margaret Busby, the writer and pioneering publisher, regards the endeavor for better representation in publishing as a struggle begun decades ago and still no closer to being won. Mainstream publishing, she says, is too institutionalized in its biases to be corrected by a few new authors or schemes.
In the1980s she helped to found Greater Access to Publishing, a group that campaigned to diversify the industry. An article she wrote in 1988 posed questions that are still being asked today, such as: “What are publishers doing to make their companies a more accurate reflection of their lists, readers and society?”
“What’s happening now is more initiatives,” Busby says. “But the problem can’t be solved with initiatives.”Margaret Busby believes the struggle for better representation in publishing is no closer to being won. (gocatti)
There is overwhelming agreement among excluded communitiesthat systemic change can only happen when inclusivity is filtered upwards. There is not yet gender parity on boards, even though women outnumber men in the industry; a lack of social diversity is one of its most stubborn problems.
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Algorithmic bias: a new fintech challenge
It’s hard to make claim that technology hasn’t improved many facets of our everyday lives. Ordering lunch, calling a cab, and even managing your finances can be done instantly with a smart phone. The unique algorithms powering these applications have found a way to process information more effectively, replacing error-prone human judgement in the decision making process. Technology has seemingly reached a point where people blindly trust these unfamiliar algorithms to provide solutions to a range of problems both trivial and major. That dispassionate technology is weighing in on complex issues may not concern some, but a growing body of evidence suggests algorithms exhibit similar biases as humans.(翻译中存在1处错误)
Instead of replacing flawed human intuition, these tools have been shown to reinforce some existing biases that afflict disadvantaged groups. This rings true in financial services where digital services continue to breach traditional banking strongholds. Despite improving the number of global unbanked by 5% between 2011 and 2014, the global gender gap in account ownership remained unchanged at 7% over the same 3 year period, according to the World Bank. The disparity widens to 9% in developing countries, as women often face disproportionately higher hurdles to financial independence.(翻译中存在2处错误)
Part of the problem is that the complex mathematical models behind today’s algorithms aren’t all held to the same ethical standard. It happens that a large proportion of software development and oversight is done by men. Though perhaps unintentional, the potential for products to inadvertently adopt some bias or emotion increases.(翻译中存在1处错误)
The algorithms behind online lenders, for instance, exhibit much of the same gender biases as traditional lenders. These new lending platforms are pulling in all kinds of alternative data such as purchase and browsing history, on top of conventional requirements of income, education, and residence, to determine borrower’s creditworthiness. Many of these determinants regularly favor men despite a growing body of research that proves women tend to save more and make more on-time loan payments.(翻译中存在1处错误)
As a result, women entrepreneurs still receive fewer and smaller business loans with higher interests rates compared to men. This disparity in financing denies women an opportunity to make an equal contribution to economic growth.翻译中存在2处错误
Of course, as finance and technology companies look to expand, it would be unwise to go on ignoring potential human biases. As women increase their role as financial decision makers, this rings particularly true: Today women in the United States exercise control over $11 trillion, or 39% of the country’s investable assets.
One possible solution would be to make these tools more transparent, though, for many fintech companies, moving to an open source model means losing their competitive advantage. In some cases, the tech has become so advanced that even the creators have trouble understanding the implications of a machine’s decisions, in which event women must play a greater role in the initial development process. Technology and software is often designed with a clear bias towards its male developers, therefore hiring women to lead product development teams would not necessarily help move the needle in the right direction.(翻译中存在1处错误)
Although it’s still difficult to eliminate bias altogether, designing diverse organizations with various races and genders increases awareness of these harsh realities. In fact, a recent report from Credit Suisse suggests having women involved in the early stages of a project helps to limit bias and create more inclusive products. For one thing, they can help design products that take into account the distinct financial needs and preferences of women. Generally, digital financial services tend to neglect women’s tendency to save, invest in their children and family, and develop a business.(翻译中存在1处错误)
Recognizing the problem is a start, and as women’s economic influence grows around the world, success will depend on inclusive technologies that meet this vast untapped market. In doing so, we can move to lower the presence of bias in modern technology and unlock the potential $12 trillion economic opportunity achieving gender equality could deliver.
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