In 8 Years, No Black Woman Listed Among 683 Panelists At Business Insider’s Flagship Conference

The annual gathering of media and digital industry leaders appears to have a blind spot.
Panelists at last year's Ignition conference included WeWork co-founders Adam Neumann, center, and Miguel McKelvey. None of t
Panelists at last year's Ignition conference included WeWork co-founders Adam Neumann, center, and Miguel McKelvey. None of the panelists in the eight years of the conference has been a black woman.

Since 2010, just after Thanksgiving each year, the digital publication Business Insider has convened a conference called “Ignition” in Manhattan. The event often features media luminaries discussing the future of digital businesses. Past conferences have included people like Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos (who invested in Business Insider in 2013) and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

In the eight years that the conference has been held, it has featured 683 panelists. That group does not include a single black woman, according to a list of panelists published online by Business Insider and reviewed by HuffPost. It is not clear if some panelists were not listed on the website, and Business Insider spokesman Mario Ruiz did not respond to a HuffPost question on the matter.

Ruiz also did not reply to multiple messages asking to confirm whether there had been a single black woman on any of the Ignition panels over the years. He told HuffPost the company aims to invite women of color every year, “including this year inviting Uber chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John, who was unable to join us.” Saint John did not respond to a request for comment.

SiriusXM Radio Director of Progressive Programming Zerlina Maxwell said on Twitter that she was “not surprised” by the lack of black women among panelists.

There is a diversity gap in media and digital industries. But there is no shortage of potential invitees for a conference like Ignition, including top executives at media companies like CNN and NBC, as well as prominent black women journalists and editors. While Asian women, Latinas and other women of color have had some representation over the years at the event, black women have been left out completely.

A section on the 2016 website for the conference describes it as “unscripted interviews, cutting-edge demos, and insights from industry pioneers” and says participants will learn “what key trends to be aware of and what you need to do to stay ahead.”

This year’s conference, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, is dubbed “The Future of Media” and features 80 panelists. Like past years, its lineup does not appear to include a single black woman. Panelists this year include New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet (who is black) and Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron. The conference will also feature powerful women in media, such as Janice Min, the former editor-in-chief and part-owner of The Hollywood Reporter, and Jodi Kantor, the New York Times reporter who helped break the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault accusations.

“It is unfathomable that Business Insider can assert that they will be showcasing the best in media, marketing and technology yet include no Black women among its 80-person panel,” said April Reign, the activist who created #OscarsSoWhite. “One wonders whether concerted efforts were made regarding inclusion of marginalized communities or if Business Insider is simply uninterested in learning from diverse communities that drive billions of dollars of revenue in this country each year.”

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