To much fanfare and coverage, LinkedIn recently announced their Next Wave influencer program. Browsing the list of people selected, I started feeling uneasy with the number of men who were also listed as CEOs. Back in 2014, Harvard Business Review put out a fact sheet showing only 14.6% of executive roles are held by women despite being more than 50% of the workforce.
Putting the 150 new influencers into a spreadsheet, 23 of them were women holding executive roles. So let’s talk about that
LinkedIn’s Next Wave is a quarterly list of professionals that the company wants to highlight. Many hold leadership roles in their companies, although there are also contributors, activists, and other individuals who make up the total collection.
Digging deeper into the numbers doesn’t offer any additional comfort.
Unfortunately, without any insight into LinkedIn’s editorial process, we can only speculate what happened. However, the blog article indicates through tidbits around MBAs and volunteer work that some amount of aggregate analysis was done. While it’s possible nobody spoke up, it’s also possible LinkedIn never really asked.
It’s unfortunate this is the long shadow given the company’s recent diversity efforts. Coming up short on something billed to “highlight different professionals and companies that are doing extraordinary work” feels like people weren’t paying attention.
The next Next Wave needs to be better.
As the default professional network of record, LinkedIn has the ability to affect change in both their own technology industry as well as the larger economic workforce. However, the list in its current form reinforces our unconscious perception of what it means to be a thought leader (male, mostly white). Those who are underrepresented benefit the most from an effort to be more inclusive.
According to LinkedIn, these lists of individuals are curated as a quarterly exercise. While it’s unrealistic to go back and remove individuals from the current list, the list itself can be improved. Here’s a few suggestions.
There are countless other diverse voices that could make LinkedIn’s Influencer program better. Improving the influence program is two steps. First, share the influencer demographics. Just like how LinkedIn and many other companies share their employment numbers, a program designed to promote thought leaders should also be transparent about their program’s makeup. Second, continue to improve those influencer demographics. Since LinkedIn is committed to bringing new lists of people to follow every quarter, there’s 3 more opportunities this year to make these lists better and improve the overall diversity of the influencer program.
Dan Roth and team have done a fantastic job in creating the momentum and energy that defines LinkedIn’s Influencer program. It’s up to LinkedIn to take this energy and convert it into a force for change.
You can view the raw spreadsheet here.