February 9, 2022

In the summer of 2021, we at Greater Public wanted to better understand our membership’s needs for training and support focused on equity, racial justice, and accessibility. Our goal was to assess what was already on offer so we could plan our content for the coming year. We created a survey inquiring about the tools and resources our colleagues were accessing, how they perceived public media’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work, and we asked what they needed from us in the coming year. Our survey yielded discoveries that went beyond the simple mapping of resources that we set out to do. It showed differences in who is engaging in DEI work and how much they’re doing. It also revealed gaps in perception about public media’s overall progress toward and commitment to DEI.

We want to share the results with our public media community to help inform an accurate assessment of the DEI work being done at stations and by whom, in hopes of also informing where we need to go.

Who Responded

359 public media employees responded anonymously to our opt-in survey, representing 110-140 stations.

Nearly 8 out of 10 respondents identified as female. The public media workforce as a whole has gender parity, as reported in 2020. We’d need to do more research to understand the skewed gender response to our survey.

BIPOC respondents were slightly overrepresented in our survey compared with the public media workforce as a whole. 29% of our respondents were BIPOC while 25% of public media staff are BIPOC, according to 2020 data1. Public media staffing is not representative of the U.S. population, which is 36% BIPOC, according to 2020 Census data.

Survey Findings

Differing Perceptions of Organizational Commitment

We asked: Overall, how would you rate your organization’s commitment to and support of diversity, equity and inclusion?

Extremely committed
Moderately committed
Somewhat committed
Slightly committed

Senior managers have different perceptions of their organizations’ commitment to DEI than do middle managers and individual contributors.

1 The percentage of public media who identify as BIPOC increased slightly in 2021, but we’re citing 2020 numbers here to have consistency in comparison with the other data.

Differing Engagement in DEI Activities

We asked: In the last year have you done or participated in any of the following DEI activities to further your own personal education?

Watched video(s) or talk(s)
Took part in a discussion group(s)
Attended a formal training(s)
Read a book(s)
Listened to podcast(s)
Added educational resources to my social media
Joined an organization(s)

We asked: Tell us about DEI initiatives that have been offered by your workplace over the past year.

Group trainings or workshops
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Affinity Groups
Reading circles or discussion groups
Individual Coaching

Overall, senior managers report higher engagement in DEI activities than do middle managers and individual contributors.

Note that we asked which initiatives were offered within organizations, and who participated in the initiatives, but we did not ask which initiatives were available to whom. For example, coaching may not have been an offering available to all employees in an organization, which would affect the number of respondents who report participating in that activity.

Differing Perceptions of Organizational Commitment to DEI Reported by Race

BIPOC respondents gave lower ratings, on average, than did white staff to all nine sentiment questions, with an average difference of -10.2%.

Correlation Between Organizational Commitment and Number of Initiatives

Organizations Viewed More Positively Than Industry

When comparing their organizations to the industry as a whole, respondents across different racial groups, levels of experience, and job levels were more positive about DEI efforts within their organization than within the industry as a whole, with one exception: Few respondents feel individuals in their organizations are able to have discussions on difficult/uncomfortable topics.

We don’t know if respondents perceive the public media “industry” to be represented largely by other stations, by networks like NPR and PBS, or both.

It was clear from the comments submitted by respondents that skepticism exists over the authenticity of DEI efforts in public media. Some verbatims expressed concern that organizational trainings lead primarily to performative actions rooted in progressive white culture like saying the “right” things, as opposed to actions that lead to meaningful change in accountability structures and the ways in which power, opportunity, and representation are shared — or not shared — in organizations. Many respondents asked to see the survey results in order to take them back to their organizations to facilitate awareness-building and goal-setting.

Let’s Take This Forward Together

Our goal in sharing our survey results is to allow all of our public media colleagues to take these data into conversations within organizations. If you would like Greater Public to present the data to your organization, or receive a copy of the survey data, get in touch with us.

We all share a responsibility to implement diversity, equity and inclusion. Progress especially depends on active engagement by senior leadership who are responsible for setting strategy, tone and culture within organizations, and ensuring equitable structures and policies. But leaders can’t do this work alone. More opportunities to engage in DEI at all levels of an organization will create more progress over time. Equitable organizations genuinely value differences as a strength and are skilled at recognizing systemic advantage. These practices must be modeled by leadership to take root organization-wide. 

Having greater transparency helps. It’s crucial that leaders offer clear, ongoing communication about challenges, progress, and opportunities. If staff don’t hear about the DEI work that’s being done in an organization (however imperfect), they will assume it’s not happening. 

Finally, building equitable organizations requires unwavering grit and ongoing introspection. Practicing transparency and good communication means we must also be able to hold conflict, ambiguity, and discomfort. Hard conversations are, indeed… hard. But equitable organizations are effective and rewarding places to work. They tend to be high-trust, high-engagement environments, with strong staff retention and good problem-solving. Building equitable organizations is the only way to fulfill public media’s mission to serve the American public. I’m grateful to be in this work alongside all of you. Together we can create a better public media for the future.

Want to write for us?

Greater Public is seeking writers familiar with public media for contract blog posts. Posts will primarily focus on fundraising case studies and will include a per-post honorarium. Please contact eguettler@greaterpublic.org to learn more.

Andrew Leitch
Jacquie Fuller