Unboxing the apology: Digital Trends gets intersectionally sorry
Digital Trends is sorry.
The Portland-based tech news site issued a lengthy apology Thursday afternoon, June 11, following Wednesday's all-hands video meeting across its Portland, New York and remote offices.
CEO Ian Bell and CTO Dan Gaul issued a mega mea culpa that checked all the current boxes.
"We are deeply and truly sorry for publicly supporting inclusive change when we had not done nearly enough to foster it inside of our walls…" said their co-signed message.
The popular website reviews TVs, PCs, phones, gaming systems and other cool toys in an easy to digest format.
The company has been roiled recently by criticism. Digital Trends joined the Great Corporate Awakening in the light of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police when it issued a sympathetic statement standing by "those who are suffering from systematic violence and oppression."
But former employees accused the company of hypocrisy. Corey Gaskin (@real_gaskin) tweeted a photo showing that Bell had thrown a gin and juice party in the office in 2018, which mimicked hip hop culture. (Gin and Juice is a 1994 song by the former NWA rapper then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg.) Management said the party was shut down after 45 minutes and the executive apologized, but Gaskin disputes this. Gaskin no longer worked there at the time of the party.
Former staff also brought up the company's male-dominated "bro" culture and a 2011 sexual harassment lawsuit which was settled. Bell said he still denies those charges and has grown as a leader.
Skeptics such as Gaskin have accused the company of paying lip service to being "woke" or sympathetic to minorities, whether it be the concerns of Black Lives Matter or the #Metoo movement.
The apology included regrets about the Digital Trends "bro culture" and an apology to those who have spoken up and been ignored: "We are especially regretful that the long overdue acknowledgement of these cracks in our foundation has tarnished the work of the extremely dedicated members of our team."
The seven point missive laid out steps the company would take to redressing the wrongs, but did not mention any discipline or job losses. There will however be a new "Zero Tolerance for Racism, Sexism, or Discrimination based on Minority Status, Intimidation, Bullying and Retaliation" starting June 19.
That Digital Trends email to staff and readers in full:
From: Ian Bell
Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2020 5:58 PM
Subject: Our Apology & Commitment to Change
To our readers, to our partners, and most importantly, to each of the bright and important current and former members of our team: we are sorry.
With credit due to the brave voices of employees past and present, we have an increased awareness of the workplace experience of our BIPOC, women, LGBTQ and other minority employees. We are deeply and truly sorry for publicly supporting inclusive change when we had not done nearly enough to foster it inside of our walls; for dimming and failing critical voices including women and people of color among our staff; for perpetuating "bro culture"; for not creating a sufficiently safe and trusted space for employees to issue important complaints that are needed for us to move forward individually and collectively to create a culture we're proud of. We acknowledge that our apology today is too late and does not right these wrongs. We understand that only by our action going forward can we rebuild the trust that has been lost.
We are especially regretful that the long overdue acknowledgement of these cracks in our foundation has tarnished the work of the extremely dedicated members of our team. We're also regretful that we've lost important voices among our ranks because of this culture, including women and people of color, who were not made to feel included or heard at Digital Trends.
As part of a long path forward toward creating a better, more fair and equitable Digital Trends, we commit to these seven initiatives:
1. Commitment to Representational Diversity in our Workforce
We believe representational diversity on our staff is paramount to building a culture of safety and inclusion. We commit to a diversity-focused staffing plan in order to create a workforce that is demographically reflective of our society at large, including senior and leadership positions. The plan will be shared publicly and with all employees June 19, 2020.
2. Continually Ensure Fair and Equitable Pay
We commit to audit and correct for pay disparity to ensure that BIPOC, Women and other Minorities are compensated fairly and equitably with oversight from a third party. A full report will be shared publicly and with all employees June 19, 2020.
3. Prioritization of Coverage of and Stories Affecting BIPOC, Women and other Minorities
Our audience is vast which provides Digital Trends with the opportunity and obligation to amplify underrepresented voices. We commit to a policy of prioritization for technology-related stories involving BIPOC, Women, LGBTQ and other minorities. This begins now, and our formal policy will be shared publicly and with all employees June 19, 2020.
4. Zero Tolerance for Racism, Sexism, or Discrimination based on Minority Status, Intimidation, Bullying and Retaliation
Any reported acts of racism, sexism, or discrimination based on LGBTQ or other minority status, as well as intimidation, bullying, and retaliation, will not go unchecked. We commit to immediate documentation and investigation with oversight and guidance on corrective action from a neutral third party. Our policy will be shared publicly and with all employees June 19, 2020.
5. Mandatory and Continuous Diversity, Inclusion and Sensitivity Training at All Levels of the Organization
We commit to provide and require continuous diversity, inclusion and sensitivity training for all employees at all levels of the organization. Any mockery or refusal to participate in this training will not be tolerated and will result in corrective action. The initial schedule of training will be shared publicly and with all employees July 1, 2020 in order to provide management and employees time to vet providers.
We commit to sharing progress towards creating a more fair, diverse and inclusive version of Digital Trends to employees and the public in our weekly newsletter and quarterly publication of measurable performance indicators that offer clarity and transparency. The first newsletter to include progress updates will be issued June 16, 2020. Quarterly progress updates will begin June 19, 2020.
7. Commitment to Minority Representation on our Board of Directors
We commit to identify an addition to our board of directors that offers representation for BIPOC, Women and other Minorities. We expect to make an announcement on this within 90 days.
These initiatives are the first steps in an ongoing pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion. More important than our apology is a commitment to achieving these goals and continuing difficult conversations to move our culture forward. We are committed to the future based on lessons from the past as we make Digital Trends a place we are all proud of.
Ian Bell & Dan Gaul
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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