The corporate world needs to do better on diversity—and so does Fortune

December 3, 2020, 10:30 AM UTC

Every year in Fortune’s annual Investor’s Guide, we make a point of letting readers know how our previous year’s picks performed. Such disclosures have made us look good of late—the more than two dozen stocks and ETFs our investment team recommended in last December’s guide earned a median return of 20.6% since we published the list, edging past the S&P 500 over the same time period. Meanwhile, last year’s Future 50 portfolio, which we put together with our partner BCG, has trounced that benchmark, returning nearly 71%. (For more, see our investment picks for 2021 as well as the latest edition of the Future 50.)

Illustration by Yo Az

But accountability should go beyond what we say, it must also apply to what we do. And so I want to take a moment to review an analysis that some of my colleagues and I did for Fortune this year. We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion in these pages, on our website, and on our conference stage—and I wanted to see how well our story assignments reflected that focus. The results were surprising, disappointing, and, frankly, embarrassing: Of the nearly 400 byline-attributable stories that we ran in the print magazine in 2020 (through this issue), 61% were written by men and 39% by women. In the case of longer feature assignments, we were even more unbalanced—assigning 63% to male writers and just 37% to women. A mere 13% of our stories were assigned to people of color.

Fifty-four of the 60 illustrators we hired were men—and only four were nonwhite. In the case of photography, our ranks were more even (a ratio of 23 men to 16 women), but still not balanced. Eight of our photographers identify as people of color.

Diversity ought to be reflected in the people we cover and quote. But in my own magazine stories this year, which include these monthly editor’s notes, my record was even worse: Fewer than one-third (32%) of the people I cited or mentioned were women, and a shockingly small number were nonwhite.

These are failures of complacency. It’s all too easy to preach about the importance of diversity, but as this accounting shows, it’s almost effortless to do nothing about it. Our eyes are designed to notice movement. And unfortunately, our everyday practices at work—who we assign, how we hire and promote, who gets mentored—often lurk in the realm of the invisible.

It is for that critically important reason that we have launched a partnership with the financial data firm Refinitiv, which has added a new component to its pioneering environmental, social, and corporate governance data—a tool to collect and report diversity and inclusion metrics. Our collaboration will help companies hold themselves accountable for their diversity efforts—something I wish I had done long ago as editor of Fortune. You can’t count on progress, after all, if you don’t count what goes into making it. I am committed to having next year’s byline disclosure look a lot more like the nation of storytellers around us.

A version of this article appears in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of Fortune with the headline, “A challenge to measure up.”

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