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Behind Reach’s commitment to better representation for women and BAME employees

Reach PLC’s commitment to the 30% is the first of its kind in the UK newspaper industry

Reach PLC has announced its intentions to have 30% of its board and senior management be women by 2023. Its sign-up to the 30% Club, which aims to make that percentage the bare minimum for companies, makes it the first UK news publisher to explicitly have the target built in.

Reach PLC is currently outpacing that target in terms of its board, which is 37.5% composed of women. Where it is lagging behind is in terms of its senior executive committee, where fewer than a quarter (22.2%) are women.

Alison Phillips, editor-in-chief of The Daily Mirror and chair of the organization Women in Journalism, says: “30% by 2023 seems like a great place to start for every organization working to improve its gender diversity – it’s clear, it’s achievable and we hope it triggers a natural momentum for continued improvement.

“While I know there’s still lots of work to do, I’m thrilled that Reach has taken this important step and made their target public. The targets around ethnic diversity are also crucial as I don’t think you can truly separate these goals. Over the next few month, WIJ and its members will be calling on other news publishers to join Reach in making this pledge.”

Reach’s head of diversity and inclusion Julie Humphreys argues that the target is attainable due to recent changes made within the organization: “This year Reach has made diversity and inclusion a priority and I was brought in as part of this focus. While we still have a lot of work to do, I’ve been really encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment across Reach to become a more inclusive workplace.

“Focusing on a clear target can do wonders for motivating people to achieve a goal and we’re confident we can achieve these aims – the will is there and now the framework and support is there too.”

To that end Reach is also set to provide ten senior leaders to a mentoring program, which seeks to boost the prominence of other women within the 30% Club’s member network.

Despite the increasing prominence of women in public-facing roles within the newsroom – there are now five female editors of national newspapers – there is demonstrably still work to be done to achieve parity. According to Women in Journalism, only 34% of senior roles in UK national newspapers were occupied by women in 2017.

That is despite research demonstrating that organizations who have better representation of women on boards and in senior positions typically outperform male-dominated counterparts, at least in countries with better histories of equality in general.

Proportionality and representation

The 30% Club also intends to make representation of BAME people proportionate to wider society. To that end Reach PLC is also committing to taking steps to ensure that is true within its own organization.

Humphreys says: “We’re taking a multi-faceted approach – we’ve implemented a more inclusive hiring process, we’ve provided our people with a robust platform for discussion around diversity via our colleague networks, and we’re mentoring and supporting the talent we already have so that we can build a sustainable pipeline of diverse talent.

“I think it’s also helpful to work closely with partner organizations who have a lot of expertise and insight to share. We’re working closely with Business in the Community and have signed the Race at Work Charter to ensure that ethnic minority employees are represented at all levels at Reach and working toward the five principles set out by the network.”

UK newspapers and broadcasters have recently been involved in a period of reflection after the former executive director of the Society of Editors Ian Murray stood down after claiming the newspaper industry was not racist. That prompted an outcry from many within the industry who cited instances of discrimination both in print and internally. Months later the Society issued a new statement retracting Murray’s claim.

Women in Journalism conducted research that demonstrated that over the course of a week in mid-July, “not a single story by a Black reporter appeared on the front page of a UK newspaper. And in that time only six front-page stories were written by BAME reporters.”

There is a lot still to be done to ensure that the UK newspaper industry is truly representative. Reach PLC’s commitment to measuring and publicly reporting its own efforts in that regard are laudable, and will hopefully be emulated elsewhere.

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