Diversity in LED and SSL sector remains an industry challenge (MAGAZINE)

Sept. 8, 2020
The topic of diversity raises questions as to how we might cultivate and embrace a wider pool of experience, talent, and knowledge to expand the creative and innovative potential of the LED and solid-state lighting industries, observes MAURY WRIGHT.

We were regrettably prepared for some criticism when our July/August issue deployed and we revealed our inaugural class of 40 Under 40 honorees. We were perhaps surprised at how quickly the questions came. Frankly, however, we knew before calling for nominations that the result would be skewed toward white males.

Now don’t misunderstand. The class as announced is laden with amazing achievement at relatively young age. We are proud of the honorees. We would also like to be part of the solution in some way in encouraging females and people of color to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and careers. And please note that some of our honorees’ profiles indicate that they are working toward such goals.

There are quite a few magazine titles in the portfolio of our parent company Endeavor Business Media that produce 40 Under 40 programs. Given that these publications span medical to transportation to technology to industrial sectors, not all have experienced quite the skew that is evident in our class. Even when contemplating the program, Carrie Meadows and I discussed the likely mix of nominees. We’ve experienced the crowd at industry tradeshows. We had discussed as a team a program that might specifically recognize women in our field, but I think we need to back programs that might help coerce long-term change.

The DesignLights Consortium was first to contact us about the lack of diversity. The organization is run by a very accomplished person in Christina Halfpenny. And she is extremely passionate about the overall challenge of diversifying participation in STEM education and careers. We were very pleased that she took the time to write a column on the problem for this issue of the magazine. Please make sure you read the column. She also wrote one of the all-time great headlines playing on the technology nuance of solid-state lighting (SSL).

What Carrie and I, and other LEDs Magazine team members, have most concerned ourselves with, however, is what comes next. What can we do to help encourage diversity? I have watched the situation, at least since I started engineering classes in college, and witnessed little change. There are certainly companies that have been proactive in innovative STEM programs. National Instruments, for example, is a company whose work I admired although I have little reason relative to LEDs and SSL to stay in touch with that organization today. National Instruments certainly has had a far higher percentage of women in its workforce than have most of the technology companies that I have worked with.

What I was hoping was that you in the audience might make some suggestions as to how to move our industry forward in terms of diversity in the workforce. It is not a simply resolved problem. Proposed solutions generally start with kids and ultimately are based on small incremental steps of progress. Still, our sector counts brilliant and creative professionals across the span and if you have an idea that might accelerate progress, share it with me via email. Depending on the responses, we can share the ideas in turn with you the audience. And just maybe someone has a great idea that we can help move toward realization.

Meanwhile, congratulations again to our 40 Under 40 honorees! This diversity discussion in no way diminishes your accomplishments. And one of you might just have that bright forward-looking idea.

Maury Wright
[email protected]

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About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.