5th October 2023
Impress Insights: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is about fairness – and newsrooms still have work to do

Cordella Bart-Stewart: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is about fairness - and newsrooms still have work to do

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I am writing this from Jamaica where two of its most successful prime ministers – one male, the other female – hail from underprivileged backgrounds. From a similar background, I qualified as a lawyer in the UK in 1987, a country which has just announced its first woman Chief Justice, more than 100 years after the Act that permitted women to be lawyers was introduced.

Jamaica, independent for just over 60 years, accomplished this in 2007. Women here far outnumber men at all levels of the judiciary. The current acting President of the Court of Appeal, also a woman, has raised the question whether the growing imbalance has implications for the administration of justice on the island, although I don’t recall the question being asked when the balance swung the other way. These changes came about in part due to the opening up of education opportunities for women and may also reflect men turning away, rather than ceding space, from public service which is less lucrative than the private sector. However, the question is valid as we continue to have conversations about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

In the UK we are in Black History Month. So far this year there has been International Women’s Day, South Asian Heritage Month, Pride Month and, next month, Disabilities History is celebrated. These are aimed at celebrating the achievements, raising awareness and sharing understanding of the lived experience of people with a range of characteristics.

There is a wide body of evidence that shows diverse boards and organisations make better decisions and improve business performance, while challenging group think leverages talent, increases innovation, reflects the marketplace, builds reputation, and improves group performance. A study by Catalyst found that companies with a greater number of women among their board of directors had better financial performances than those with the fewest. Forbes carried out similar research, examining the stock performance of the publicly traded companies headed by women on its “2010 Power Women 100”. They found that, on average, these companies significantly outperformed, not only their industries, but the overall market.

But it is not just about money. Following the tragic death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant in 2020, newsrooms, including the BBC, included footage of a different black player in its coverage. Forbes carried a piece highlighting a pattern of such mistakes in stories about other well-known Black and Asian persons and the need for newsrooms to build diversity into recruitment and promotion processes and better include minorities in those same organisations, increasing reference points available for decision making and to decrease the risk that comes with homogenous in-groups.

DEI should not be seen as a box to tick or an add-on. It is basically about fairness and allowing all voices to be heard. Diversity of thought, experience, background, class and the many other intersections should be normal in all aspects of society and no less so in newsrooms and the myriad of platforms from which we receive news and information. For journalists and publishers this should also mean providing content that is inclusive.

Marcus Ryder, an experienced journalist who has written on issues of diversity in the media, noted in a 2020 interview with Press Gazette noted that the issue is also one of power imbalance and suggests looking at the proportion of salary spend on each demographic rather than just hires. Another metric, he suggested, might be how long on average people from different backgrounds are given to work on stories. I was surprised to hear that several journalists were working on a current story for five years. Real inclusion should also mean that, as Ryder suggested, “journalists from different demographics can produce a wide range of stories, so they aren’t just reporting on issues that are traditionally seen to affect their own community.”

As with other bodies and organisations, newsrooms should reflect the diversity of the audience it seeks to reach and service. Work must continue, or in some cases start, to ensure this is a reality rather than mere words.

An increased focus on DEI could also help end the trust crisis in journalism. As journalism student Lei Danielle Escobal put it: “The greater the diversity in voice, the more neglected stories get covered, and the greater trust there is between media and the public, especially the part of the public that feels very unsupported by the media.”

By Cordella Bart-Stewart


About Cordella Bart-Stewart

Cordella Bart-Stewart OBE has over 30 years’ experience as a solicitor and established her own general legal practice in North London in 1990. She has a strong interest in equality and human rights issues and has specialised in family and immigration law for over 25 years. She has been a fee paid Judge of the First Tier Tribunal since 2000. Formerly an independent Governor of Staffordshire University, which awarded her an Honorary Doctorate. She is a Chartered Manager and Companion of the Chartered Management Institute. She is a serving Director and founding member of the award winning Black Solicitors Network.

About Impress 

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