Diversity is one of those ongoing, rather volatile issues, that seems to me completely bizarre in various ways. For example, if you start saying things like ‘we need a certain percentage of our people to be _____’ then you’re basically singling that type of person out for special treatment, and penalising others just because they’re not in that group. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for diversity, but not if it means knocking someone else for no other reason than their gender/ethnicity/religion/age/size. Shouldn’t ability be the main marker for whatever you’re doing? Unless you’re going for a certain look, but then appearance is part of the requirements, and so. . .
Also, where are these figures coming from that say there isn’t enough diversity in the workplace/writing/film industry/. . .? And is that for one country or all countries? And there’s a whole range of things you can mean when you’re talking about diversity: gender, ethnicity, age range, religion, social background. . . Besides, everyone knows – or should know by now – that statistics can be manipulated to show whatever a person wants, and they very rarely give a completely accurate, unbiased view.
A little while ago several of the big writing awards were slammed for having nearly all male winners. But is that because fewer women enter, because the judges are looking for a certain style that men tend to use, because it’s really expensive to enter, you have to be nominated, have to have been published, have to have an agent— Ah, you see you could say I’m being biased against women there because I implied they wouldn’t enter because of the expense, which also implies they have less money than men. Or does it imply they have other things to spend it on, and now am I being biased against men? This is another reason I find this sort of topic weird and awkward – nearly everything you say can be taken differently than you mean so it implies criticism to someone, and it can have several conflicting implications.
(Take a statement and try this out, I’m sure you can come up with many conflicting ideas by considering it from different points of view, or slightly skewing the meaning while maintaining the original comment.)
Maybe some people don’t enter a certain competition because they don’t want to; just because it’s a ‘prestigious’ award doesn’t mean everyone wants to win it. There are simply so many factors that affect whether or not someone goes for a competition, and why should it be assumed that just because men have won most often, women are being discriminated against? Maybe the men are simply better. Maybe they know how to write in a way that gets them that selected for that prize.
Another competition stated that last year they received almost 800 entries from 31 countries, and this year they exceeded that. Does that sound like they lack diversity? I’m sure someone who knew the specifics could decide that it was somehow.
And this is where anonymity comes in. No names means the judges can’t have any idea who the work they’re reading was written by. Except, you can still end up with one ‘type’ of person being selected more often than others either because of what the judges are looking for, or simply through random chance.
So maybe a nom de plume is the way to go? Pseudonyms. Made up names. Women write as men, men write as women, people use a name that suits whatever genre they’re writing in. Except the publisher or someone still knows who you are, because for anything legal you have to use your real name somewhere. And is using a pen-name – whether through perceived necessity or choice – being discriminatory? (More on this later)
So here’s the thing: In the end one person has to be chosen and all the others disappointed. Most likely the person who gets chosen was selected for their ability, or for one thing in particular that made them stand out. If you think writing isn’t diverse, just take a look at the books on the shelves. Check out the ebooks and online magazines and blogs. People say publishing and how people read is changing, so maybe forget about prizes and top whatever lists and actually look at what is there. You’ll see in seconds that there’s plenty of diversity.