The kudos-to-complaints ratio on the 25th anniversary issue of Arkansas Business has been running about 10-to-1, and for that, I am very grateful. I do want to address a complaint voiced publicly by a couple of Little Rock women.
On her blog, MsAdverthinker.com, Emily Reeves, director of account management and research for the Stone Ward advertising agency, said she was "stunned" that only "3.5" women were included in the list called "25 for the Future." (The 0.5 woman was Elizabeth Stephens Campbell, who shared a spot with her brother, Witt Stephens Jr.)
Mimi San Pedro, head of marketing for Acxiom Corp., didn't even give us credit for Campbell when she complained on Twitter: "3 out of 25, surely not! No awareness of women leaders?"
I'm not going to argue about whether there could or should have been more women on that list. That's one of the things I hate about creating arbitrary and subjective lists, like our annual "40 Under 40" and "Power List" features – someone can always make a case for others who should be in the mix, and their opinions are just as valid as mine.
What was missing from the comments of Reeves and San Pedro, however, was any acknowledgement that the same publication that included the "25 for the Future" list that offended them so also included a list called "25 Women Leaders" – exactly what San Pedro said we had no awareness of. Some of them would have fit beautifully among the "25 for the Future," and there are a lot of other women out there who would have been at home on one or both of those lists – starting with my boss, Olivia Myers Farrell, CEO of Arkansas Business Publishing Group.
As we noted in the publication, Olivia was on our working list of Women Leaders, but she asked me to take her off when she realized the caliber of women we were forced to cut in order to get the list down to just 25 names (our arbitrary limit in keeping with the 25th anniversary theme).
Our CEO is a woman, I'm a woman and so is our managing editor, Jan Cottingham. Last summer we published an article about the dearth of women and minorities on the boards of directors of Arkansas' public companies. It seems ironic, then, that we would be vulnerable to complaints about not being sensitive enough to women – but we are, and rightly so.
This is not just an issue of political correctness; if it were, I wouldn't give it a second thought. It is a question of editorial content in this publication, and that is Job One for me. When I weigh the value of an unlimited number of story ideas that we could pursue, how much weight should I put on making sure that women and minorities are fairly represented? I confess that I tend to put other factors higher on my list, starting with reader interest.
What exactly is fair representation anyway? Reeves noted on her blog that 51 percent of Arkansas' population is female, but would it fairly represent the Arkansas business community if half or more of our stories about business executives featured women? Of course not. For many reasons – hardly any of them blatantly discriminatory – the world of business is still dominated by men, and as long as that is true, Arkansas Business is likely to include the names and faces of more men than women.
And, though I think it's a dirty rotten shame in 2009, it will probably be quite awhile before we stop feeling the need to single out women or minorities for special recognition. The 25th anniversary publication didn't contain a list called "25 Men Leaders," but we did feature "25 Minority Trailblazers." (Great women were on that list, too.)
Every year, someone complains that the "40 Under 40" list of rising young business leaders didn't include enough women, or enough minorities, or enough people from outside central Arkansas. The complaints invariably come from people who didn't nominate anyone.
This year's "40 Under 40" feature is scheduled for publication on June 15. The nomination form already is online at ArkansasBusiness.com/nominate and will appear in Arkansas Business in the coming weeks. The deadline for nominating is May 1.
If you don't nominate anyone, don't complain to me later.
(E-mail Gwen Moritz, editor of Arkansas Business, at email@example.com.)