‘The Chance to Break That Pattern’; Neal Award Winners Set Bar High for DEI Coverage

Diversity and inclusion have so many layers to it, I was reminded again last night. The three 2023 Neal Award winners for Best DEI Coverage portray that complexity in their content. Endeavor showed that women truckers don’t come in one size and shape. IEEE Spectrum gave readers an inside perspective they would not get elsewhere. And Project Hope demonstrated that health care equality has its own intricacies.

Last night at the National Building Museum here in Washington, D.C., architect Suchi Reddy of Reddymade Architecture and Design spoke about her current installation titled Look Here, featuring high-flying clusters of reflective fractals that expose new facets of this cavernous and historic building.

When going over her firm’s work, Reddy became most animated speaking about the Connective Project in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. The installation consisted of 7,000 sculpturally arranged yellow pinwheels.

“One day when I was leaving the area after a long day, a woman in a wheelchair strode up,” Reddy said. “I was so excited that I went back and escorted her to the ramp we had built [for wheelchairs] to visit.” Reddy’s proud tone of voice confirmed that it was a wonderful moment for her.

This reminded me of a couple things. One was a recent occasion when transportation to an off-site dinner during an industry event did not include wheelchair access. (I learned that Lyft is better than Uber for this.)

I also recalled one of our 2023 Neal Award winners for Best DEI Coverage: Endeavor Business Media’s FleetOwner’s Women in Transportation issue. “This year, FleetOwner spoke with nine different women across the industry’s ranks,” wrote Cristina Commendatore. “Each professional sees the potential that the industry has not only for women, but for the next generation of younger workers in trucking.”

Here are takeaways from the three winners in that special category:

Publish a variety of profiles. Like Reddy’s talk, the Women in Transportation package highlights many types of diversity in its profiles. Sharae Moore is the CEO and founder of SHE Trucking. (I may have to tune into their weekly podcast.) Moore was invited to the White House as part of President Biden’s Trucking Action Plan, and now SHE Trucking partners with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s driver apprenticeship program.

Another profile centered on Lindsey Trent, president and co-founder of Next-Gen Trucking. “High schools—and even middle schools—need more trucking programs if the industry has any chance of recruiting the next generation of talent,” wrote Commendatore. “That’s where the Next-Gen Trucking comes into play.”

Said another profiled woman, master-certified technician Missy Albin, “When people see me and I say what I do as a job, they say ‘no way.’ I am only 120 lb. and when people hear what my profession is, they think that I should be a larger man, strong, and look dirty and that my nails should be dirty.”

Hire more diverse writers. Nothing About Us Without Us comes from one of the rallying cries of the disabled community. “Assistive technologies are often designed without involving the people these technologies are supposed to help. That needs to change,” wrote Harry Goldstein, acting editor-in-chief, IEEE Spectrum, in a preview of the issue and the article titled The Bionic-Hand Arms Race by Britt Young.

“Young, who is working on a book about the prosthetics industry, was in the first cohort of toddlers fitted with a myoelectric prosthetic hand, which users control by tensing and relaxing their muscles against sensors inside the device’s socket.”

“IEEE Spectrum has covered many of these developments over the decades, but generally speaking it has involved able-bodied journalists writing about assistive technology…,” continued Goldstein. “We are fortunate now to have the chance to break that pattern, thanks to a grant, [partly] from the IEEE Foundation… With the grant, Spectrum is launching a multiyear fellowship program for disabled writers.”

We read about wonderful programs that want to diversify our stages—Informa Markets’ Diverse Voices on Stage comes to mind—but we hear less about programs to diversify our writers, designers and photographers.

Use many content platforms. In Project Hope’s Neal Award-winning Health Affairs February 2022 issue on racism and health, “70% of the papers featured a lead author who had never before published in Health Affairs. In total, more than 90 authors and coauthors were published for the first time in Health Affairs with this issue.”

That’s an achievement in itself, but Health Affairs also collaborated with other diverse content creators to include elements that go beyond the traditional journal articles. The issue was so popular with readers that a second theme issue focused on racism and health is planned for October.

Besides the numerous articles on the site, there are videos, a Lunch & Learn recording, Briefings, Professional Development, related podcasts and a very cool StoryMap titled The Problem of the Color Line. With some amazing charts, maps and old photos. If anything the whole project is a bit intimidating.

I just clicked on one of the many articles—The Potential for Bias in Machine Learning and Opportunities for Health Insurers to Address It. “As machine learning is increasingly used in health care settings, there is growing concern that it can reflect and perpetuate past and present systemic inequities and biases,” the article says.


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