TLDR: This is a post about diversity on the podcast. It includes:
• An intro about diversity
• The result of a basic diversity survey I've done with my guests
• Thoughts and questions about the methods used
• Help in improving both the survey and the results
If you find this work interesting and would like to support me in doing more of it, you can support me here on Patreon on a monthly pay-what-you-want basis. Thanks for your support. Jon.
When starting the podcast in July, I knew that I wanted to expose myself and others to different ideas. Particularly though, I wanted to listen to different perspectives that might help me counter some of my own biases.
I have for just over a year now been researching the findings behind cognitive biases and the use and application of these findings. One of my main insights is that biases are typically studied within the context of seeking to change somebody else's behaviour, but rarely as a tool for self-awareness in order to change our own behaviours. I would like to partly use it for this. I see room for understanding one's own bias as a platform not only for our intellectual progress but even as a form of self-therapy. The more I understand my own biases, the more I am able to improve my subjective experience of the world, think sharper, and improve my most valued relationships.
It is one thing to know one's own biases - and I will speak more about this another time, possibly in some depth - but what to do about it? I see a few different methods to counter our biases, but the most simple and valuable one not only for us but for others is to seek diversity. The ideal is that this is diversity is intellectual: a diversity of ideas. But a good place to start is demographic diversity.
Diversity is typically seen as an altruistic agenda in of itself. Of course I agree with the pursuit of equality, that's a no-brainer, but that isn't my driving motivation or the message I'd like to send here. I'm rather sharing a colder, head-heavy approach by talking about diversity simply because I know, selfishly, that it would make me a better person, a better thinker, and that therefore I will share better ideas that can better help people.
This is why I promised from the start that I would measure diversity on the podcast.
Diversity can be hard to practice when you haven't practiced it from the start and so it was important that I consider diversity from the very beginning because the more bias I am the more bias I will be, and the more diverse I am the more open I could be (if I'm listening).
In this post, I'd like to be transparent about the diversity levels of the podcast so that:
• I'm accountable for improving this over time.
• I can get help in re-balancing my biases (through introductions to guests for instance)
• I can consider more diverse measures of diversity (I'll explain more below).
So in this post I will:
• Share the results along with my summary and goals
• Ask some questions of this survey and how to move forward
• Ask for your help
My answer (and most likely bias) would be: Man
Summary: This was my top priority when it comes to diversity which explains the results being pretty balanced between men and women. I was particularly intentional about the order of episodes, it felt important to me that the first 4 episodes wouldn't be conversations with 4 people of the same gender for instance. So the sequence of interviews was intentionally taking it in turns. Further down you will find another specific result related to Transgender & Cis-Gender.
Goal: Maintain a similar man to woman balance. Extend this diversity more broadly.
Racial & Ethnic Identity
My answer (and most likely bias) would be: European / White
Summary: This felt a little trickier and to be honest, was something I probably put a little less thought into. The cocktail of where I have lived (UK / Portugal / France) with my own biases appear here with 5 out of 7 of guests partly identifying as European / White. I'd like to re-balance this over time. I am happy however that there is some diversity with 1 Hispanic / Latin guest, 1 Middle Eastern, and 1 Southeast Asian.
Goal: Over time I would love to see a more even distribution. Mainly, this would allow me to gain a more global perspective in my intellectual wanderings. What this mainly shows is that I am very European Centric and that would be a great bias of mine to re-balance. I imagine I would feel really enriched by this. Please suggest anybody you think would offer a different perspective from the dominant one I seem to be exposing myself to.
My answer (and most likely bias) would be: 25 to 34 (I'm 31)
All but one of my guests have been aged 25-44, with one guest being 45-54. So this means I'm speaking to people on average slightly older than me. I'd say there is a mild bias here. Considering my work with children and alternative / democratic education, I would love to see myself get the perspective of some younger guests. And considering the insights I got from Episode #4 How might we make old age beautiful? with Susana Antonio, I would like to also get some perspectives from older generations. Again, suggestions welcome!
Goal: Get a younger guest and an older guest in the coming year.
My answer (and most likely bias) would be: Heterosexual or straight
Summary: This isn't something I put much intention into in the first 7 recordings. If I enquire as to why, I think this may be because: 1/ Being diverse across all these different measures in only 7 episodes is next to impossible and so my focus was on certain measures above others (namely ensuring that the split between men and women be balanced); 2/ I have reasonable diversity here in my professional networks and friendship groups and so perhaps I actually sub-consciously de-prioritise this because I don't believe myself to have a bias. Of course, this is a false logic, this could very well be the precise reason why I should prioritise this measure.
Goal: More evenly distributed results. Perhaps even interview a guest specifically on the topic of sexual orientation. Please suggest!
My answer (and most likely bias) would be: No
Summary: Again, this particular result has been low on my priority list in the first 7 episodes.
Goal: To interview a guest who identifies. Again, it could be interesting for instance to discuss gender transitions as a topic. I have a couple of people in mind but would love some help. Suggestions please :)
My answer (and most likely bias) would be: No
Summary: None of my guests consider themselves to have a disability.
Goal: Re-balance this over time. I'm not sure how yet, suggestions are welcome. I think it could be interesting to empathise with what it feels like to have a disability, and actually, I'd love to understand different types of disability more (such as forms of disability that are common but not immediately visible unless expressed). Suggestions welcome :)
THE SURVEY, METHOD AND MOVING FORWARD
So these are the overall results. What about the survey and method?
I got these results by surveying all the guests that I have already interviewed for the podcast (a couple of these episodes haven't been published at the time of writing this report). Of course, this is only one way to measure diversity. I could also look at listenership more closely, or look at the topics I cover (for instance: I haven't had anybody in the younger or older age brackets as a guest, I have covered young and old age as topics). But I have to start somewhere. Guests feels like a good measure because the guest impacts listenership and is entangled with the topic.
On the survey itself:
I used SurveyMonkey and Paradigm's Belonging & Inclusion Template and simplified it to include only the questions about diversity (rather than company culture which didn't feel relevant here). I'm not fully happy with the survey, but it feels like a good place to start. With your help, I'd like to improve it for next time (I thought of doing this every 6 months-ish).
The survey seems to cover the basics, but there are gaps. Namely, it doesn't include reporting about socio-economic factors (e.g. income or household income during the guests upbringing), education, beliefs...
Improving the survey:
I think it would be easy for me to include education, so I'll mark that down as an oversight this time around. I think money is a factor and I'm not quite sure how to do that. If you have any suggestions please let me know.
I particularly would like to measure political leaning or beliefs or something of this sort. If this is about biases, I feel like demographics are factors that are upstream from somebody's beliefs (i.e. they would have an effect on a person's beliefs); but it's with the beliefs themselves that the biases lie. Understanding this would be great but I don't know how. Self-identifying on a 'left' vs 'right' political spectrum doesn't seem accurate, interesting or perhaps even relevant. My sense is that understanding somebody's beliefs would be best done through correlates (such as asking people what newspapers they read, channels they watch...etc) which could be interesting, but I'm not sure how yet, particularly in a succinct way to not over-complicate things or ask too much of my guests' time. I'd love help in doing this!
MY APPROACH & ASKING FOR YOUR HELP
As you can see, looking at diversity isn't an after thought for me, but I'd like to say that it isn't front of mind either. It's somewhere in the middle. I'm not racing against time to make sure I'm squeaky clean of all biases! In fact, I'm probably not even looking to be even everywhere. For example, with age, I'm not looking for an even distribution across all ages from the youngers to the oldest. This feels like an excessively high bar. I do think that that covering extremes and breadth is important though. Diversity on the podcast is a process and a practice, not an end result. I would like to over time, keep tweaking things so that the needle finds equilibrium.
The main thing is that currently, because the podcast is relatively new, I am mainly finding guests through my own networks which are inherently biased not only demographically but intellectually too. I've mentioned before that some of my conversations clearly contain too much confirmation bias. I think this is because of this network effect, but also because of the solution orientated part of the title attracting people. Perhaps one area for me to improve as a conversation partner (as opposed to debating opponent) is to be able to attract and have conversations with people I disagree with without that putting anybody off appearing on the podcast. I hope overtime this changes as the podcast gets broader reach, but for now, the thing I think I need most is help with introductions to people different to me, with different ideas.
I would love your help in three ways:
• Suggesting smart, creative and insightful guests that provide perspectives from outside my own biases
• Help me improve the way I measure diversity (e.g. particularly by surveying beliefs)
• Share the podcast in places outside of my biases, in places I'm unlikely to hangout
This exercise feels like a valuable reflection in of itself. I'm not saying I've done a good or bad job, and I'm not comparing my results to any others. This doesn't feel in the spirit of things. Simply I'm trying to reflect on diversity and biases and how I can make myself and the podcast better.
Some points to conclude:
• Diversity is hard to 'achieve' when seen as an end goal, but it's not so intimidating when seen as a process or a practice. It's a work in progress and I have a way to go.
• It's not that difficult to get started with, and the starting point seems important.
• I would like help to be exposed with ideas I'm not typically exposed to within my social bubble.
• I would like help to measure diversity in more diverse ways.
If you find this work interesting and would like to support me in doing more of it, you can support me here on Patreon on a monthly pay-what-you-want basis.
Thanks, take care and please offer your thoughts and help.