SIA 40 under 40: Sexist and arbitrary? Or a look in the mirror?

The editorial team at Staffing Industry Review last week received a letter expressing outrage at the underrepresentation of women on our 40 Under 40 list. Indeed, we agree the number is low. It certainly does not reflect the overall face of the industry, which is dominated by women at the office level. At the upper-echelons, however, the list is more reflective, and that’s a shame.

It’s also reflective of the nominations we receive. If more than 80% of nominations we receive are for men, what is fair and reasonable? Should we force an evenness that isn’t there by setting a minimum for women? But that’s not how we work. Rather, each nomination is given the same consideration regardless of the name attached.

When asking for nominations for our lists, we ask for specifics. For hard data. For something that is quantifiable, if possible, so we can weigh the nominations against each other more easily. Why is this person deserving? For example, how much revenue was this person responsible for? How much growth over what period of time? What tools or innovation did this person put forward and how did the company or industry benefit — or even society?

When we meet to discuss the nominations and ultimately compile this list, we take a look at the nominations holistically and compare them. If a nomination doesn’t provide much in the way of a person’s achievements, that person might be at a disadvantage and might not land on the list. If a point of achievement is not clear or concise, we do try to clarify it to the best of our ability, but it’s obviously not simple. Imagine doing this under deadline for dozens of people.

And we can tell you at the end of the day, when we look at the list we came up with, we, too, are dismayed at the numbers and lack of diversity — and not just in gender. But in reviewing the initial pool of nominations, we come to the same conclusions.

The letter we received said our editorial staff owes you, our readers, an apology. Perhaps we do. We do our best and it’s a work in progress. Seven out of 40 is disappointing.

But we’re not sure what we could have done differently given the hand we were dealt. Forcing diversity in a list that isn’t reflective of the industry does more of a disservice, in our opinion. The nominations we receive, however, are in your court. Take the time to send people whom you think are worthy of the list and give us the data to help us understand their contributions and achievements.

In the meantime, our team will continue to work very hard to do what it can to elevate and empower the industry, including the women in it. Several years ago, our industry did not have its own lists honoring the hard work you do. Now we do.

And three years ago, the low numbers of women on our Staffing 100 lists (North America and Europe) led us to create our Women in Staffing list, and we are proud to have been able to continue that list, which is very well received and highly anticipated. But it was always our hope that the Women in Staffing list ultimately would prove unnecessary. That the industry would catch up and recognize the value women offer and put them in more places of leadership. Because without women reaching those places of leadership, our lists of staffing leaders will remain unbalanced.

And we’re progressing, albeit slowly. Let’s take a sneak peak at the upcoming Staffing 100 Europe 2018 list, which comes out early next week: It has 20 women on the list, up from 15 last year.

So there is progress, and we look forward to seeing more.

Sharon Thomas

Sharon Thomas
Sharon Thomas is managing editor at Staffing Industry Analysts, responsible for the Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0 e-newsletter. She can be reached at smthomas (at) staffingindustry (dot) com.

Sharon Thomas

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