Industry editors open with diversity discussion

Jan. 18, 2021
A recent Illuminating Engineering Society webinar with trade-press editors jumped right in with a conversation about diversity, leading to thoughts on how the industry has shifted and can continue to advance.

Due to priority magazine production duties, I was unable to get a blog up last Friday. But I wanted to get out to our readers some perspectives that were shared during last week’s Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) webinar with trade-press editors who cover the LED and lighting industries in depth.

IES host Mark Lien plunged right into the most serious topic of the day, opening up a conversation with the editors about diversity and leadership representation, and how coverage of the lighting community has responded to these concerns. Right away, the editors admitted that their representation in the ranks of lighting trade press showed both a longer experience than they cared to admit, and one that did cater for a very long time to white males.

However, as the first to speak directly on this topic, EdisonReport editor Randy Reid observed that looking back at the IES itself, the organization has shown diversity in its lineup of past presidents, with more women being represented in that role whereas the greater lighting and technology industry of the 1980s and 1990s did not see many women in leadership roles.

Lighting Design + Application (LD+A) editor Paul Tarricone responded that “in the early days of the IES, it was a ‘stick to your knitting’” attitude that writers, trade journalists, and professionals in the industry were expected to focus on technical and design problems/solutions in the industry, as opposed to personnel and diversity of folks in the lighting field. Tarricone expanded, though, saying that recent support for opening lines of communication about social issues and representation, and the participation of diverse people across other fields, has impacted the way lighting has advanced; and bringing their contributions to lighting professionals has shifted the way expertise and social representation are recognized.

Moving to editor Al Uszynski, who considers himself more of a relative newcomer to the field, he mentioned a TEDx talk by Candace Steele Flippin, a top communications executive who was appointed as Acuity Brands’ chief communications officer last year, and a woman of color. Steele Flippin, Uszynski explained, spoke about the lack of women in leadership at the C-suite level and what they can do to leverage opportunities for growth and positive public displays of support in 2020 may motivate more of those who are not people of color (POC) or representative of other minorities to speak up when they witness behavior or situations that seem unequitable or inappropriate; and he is encouraged that this dialogue will open up the hiring pool.

When Lien asked our own Maury Wright his perspective on the topic, Wright noted immediately that when LEDs Magazine launched its 40 Under 40 program to recognize up-and-coming lighting professionals, “Even before we published, we discussed it [the selection of submitted candidates] was largely white and male. And immediately, there were several reactions. We had a few columns acknowledging the industry is largely represented by white males,” and encouraged everyone to openly discuss. One of those was contributed by DesignLights Consortium director Christina Halfpenny, who explored examples of programs that are being developed to encourage mentorship, and develop more talented professionals from all groups and minorities. Still, Wright acknowledges that change must continue to be motivated by those within the industry.

Reid and Tarricone also discussed an article run by LD+A with interviews featuring minority representatives from the lighting field, which I agree is an illuminating piece on what these individuals have encountered and where and how they believe change can make a difference in the composition of industry professionals, thereby bringing unique approaches to innovation, mentorship perspectives, and quality both in the field and in lighting design.

I took a lot more notes than this conveys on plenty more compelling commentary, but this initial diversity topic from the webinar discussion is one we can continue to approach and look for insight and progress from professionals within the community.

Related links

VIDEO: Candace Steele Flippin – TEDxMemphis, “Are You Talking to Me? What Women Really Want...At Work

INTERVIEW: LD+A Hot Topics – Paul Tarricone, “Elephant in the Room – The lighting industry’s diversity problem

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About the Author

Carrie Meadows | Editor-in-Chief, LEDs Magazine

Carrie Meadows has more than 20 years of experience in the publishing and media industry. She worked with the PennWell Technology Group for more than 17 years, having been part of the editorial staff at Solid State Technology, Microlithography World, Lightwave, Portable Design, CleanRooms, Laser Focus World, and Vision Systems Design before the group was acquired by current parent company Endeavor Business Media.

Meadows has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards, and has volunteered as a judge on several B2B editorial awards committees. She received a BA in English literature from Saint Anselm College, and earned thesis honors in the college's Geisel Library. Without the patience to sit down and write a book of her own, she has gladly undertaken the role of editor for the writings of friends and family.

Meadows enjoys living in the beautiful but sometimes unpredictable four seasons of the New England region, volunteering with an animal shelter, reading (of course), and walking with friends and extended "dog family" in her spare time.