A few months ago, I decided I would not appear on podcasts or other interview-style mediums unless:
A) It was a work obligation where I was directly representing my company.
B) The podcast/interview was hosted/co-hosted/produced by a person from an underrepresented group.
In my “How to Be a WordPress Ally” blog post, one of the tips I provided was to consume content from/including diverse individuals. This is a strong way to make sure you are seeing the world (or even just your industry) for what it truly is. It is a good way to widen your sphere of influence and to support people who don’t get much coverage.
This pledge is a way for me to honor and support that.
I realized, after getting quite a few podcast interviews under my belt, that I was consistently speaking to the same sorts of people about the same kinds of things. I want my messaging and what I stand for to be reliable and consistent, but I also want to evolve and grow.
So because I feel the need to document and internalize and analyze pretty much everything, here is some information on why I made this decision, why this decision is better than repeating myself over and over, what podcasts I will be happy to appear on, and some people you should invite on instead.
Are podcast hosts diverse?
As of June 2020, there are 850,000 active podcasts, and 30 million podcast episodes. Podcast listeners are almost exactly 50/50 when it comes to gender; 49% of listeners are men, and 51% are women. (source) There are no studies I could find that show how many podcasts are hosted by men vs. women. So I did my own study.
Out of the 10 most downloaded podcasts of all time, 27% of the hosts are women, 73% are men. (source) Not wildly disproportionate, but pretty darn disproportionate all the same. I didn’t attempt to pick up on other descriptors – like queer or POC hosts – because that is typically very hard to tell from photos or names.
If you Google “WordPress Podcasts”, you are met with 37 suggestions. There are also quite a few listicle posts that link out to other WordPress podcasts. I found as many as I could, and counted the number of male hosts to female hosts. 70% male to 30% female.
I did try to determine how many were people of color. I found one podcast with two POC hosts (The WPMRR WordPress Podcast). I became so discouraged searching for more, that I gave up.
What does this mean?
While a subset of 10, compared to a subset of ~40, may not be crazy strong math, it still proved a few things to me.
- The podcasting space, in general, is not equal.
- While the WordPress community does like to brag about how diverse we are, we are not much better than mainstream podcasting.
- Since indie-podcasts like these typically mean that host and creator are one in the same, we have fewer women starting podcasts, in addition to fewer women being invited/hired to co-hosts.
- There is not a single WordPress host I could find who looked like me (black and female).
Why does this matter?
I won’t dive into why representation is important here. There are tons of other resources that prove that.
Now before you zoom on down to the comment section – I’ve been on some of these male-hosted podcasts. I’m quite fond of many of them, personally and professionally. But homogeneity means we lose all of the other beautiful things that other kinds of people can bring to the table.
I did not dive into the diversity of guests on those podcasts (partially because I am not hopeful about the outcome, partially because it would have taken 100 years). But please remember that just inviting diverse guests onto your podcast is not enough.
- That is a small contribution to a large library of work.
- That person typically doesn’t drive the conversation or dictate what messaging does and does not go out.
- That person has no control over how widely that episode will be shared, or the quality of the interview.
In short, given the amount of diversity we as a community have accomplished in other areas, our percentages should be better than the mainstream average.
Why is this better for diversity than repeating myself about diversity?
So. My pledge not to appear on podcasts that are only hosted by straight white men doesn’t really have anything to do with those straight white men. I don’t think that I’m important or famous or influential enough to affect these podcasts by “boycotting” them.
The goal of this exercise is to point out this deficiency and to build some accountability. To check the over-confidence we sometimes have in asserting that WordPress is so terribly diverse and included. And to preserve my time and energy in order to support podcasts like Women in WP and WPCoffeeTalk and Hallway Chats. (All highly successful podcasts. All 3 missing from many of the WordPress podcast lists. One missing entirely from Google’s indexed list of podcasts, despite having almost 50 episodes published.)
In addition to all this, most of the podcast interview requests I receive ask me to speak on diversity in WordPress. While I appreciate the effort to have more of these conversations, I feel like I’ve been repeating myself over and over with no real changes. I don’t want to be a broken record. I don’t want to shout into the ether without truly being heard.
Do you want me on your podcast?
All this being said, I truly enjoy podcast interviews. I have made so many new friends through these opportunities. They have been both personally and professionally valuable for me. I do love speaking about diversity and contributing toward making that a less taboo topic. However, this isn’t about me.
The podcasts I will appear upon must fall under the following:
- Hosted by at least one individual that openly claims membership to an underrepresented group (female, POC, queer, disabled, neurodivergent)
That’s it. End of list.
If you want me on your podcast because you want to share the content I am passionate about with your audience, please share How to Be a WordPress Ally or any of the following episodes instead:
- WPMRR WordPress Podcast – Ginny Weasley on actively creating a more inclusive WordPress world
- How I Built It – Freelancing, Mental Health, and Being a Black Women in Tech
- Hallway Chats – Episode 118
- Press This Podcast: Grow Your Technology Business by Leaning Into Diversity
- Torque Social Hour: Discussing the All-Women 5.6 Release Squad
- #TrainingTuesday: Encouraging Diversity in Meetups and WordCamps
Here are people I recommend you invite on instead
This Twitter list is consistently being updated by me, and includes people who work in the WordPress space that fall into an underrepresented group. Many of these people have spoken on podcasts before, many have not. They are all intelligent and exceptional and worthy of your time. And who knows? Maybe some of them would be interested in co-hosting a podcast…
I completely understand your reasoning, Allie. I’ve been a huge fan of podcasting since 2005, and the gender gap exists even in fields that are mainly female (PR and communications, for example). I started listening to more podcasts by people of color a few years ago, and several of those do have female hosts/co-hosts. But I can tell you why I, as a woman, never chose to host my own podcast but rather to make frequent appearances on other people’s shows.
Producing a podcast is a shedload of work. It rarely pays off financially beyond getting expenses covered by sponsors. Women indisputably have to do a lot more unpaid household and family labor than men do, even in 2020, and tend to be paid less and therefore have less money to spend on getting help for said labor. This tends to go double and triple for women of color. When I got married, it was like taking on a 20-hour/week unpaid job. I had to let go of several regular (also unpaid) activities I’d engaged in when single, and it still cut into my billable time.
My sense is that the shortage of women and people of color in podcasting is a symptom of the uneven distribution of income and privilege in the world. In theory, anyone can start a podcast. That’s more true than the old saying that anyone can grow up to be president. The barriers are much lower than with radio or TV. But you need at least some investment in equipment, a decent Internet connection, and most of all, time that isn’t already tied up in other obligations.
In spite of this, there are a lot of podcasts produced by people of color and even women of color…just not in WordPress. And there darn well should be, but try finding one who isn’t already hopelessly overstretched.