For almost 20 years, Legacy Business Cultures has proudly sent our “Coffee and Keynote” inspirational quotes every weekday morning to thousands of online subscribers. Last year alone, we sent out over 2 million individual messages sharing wisdom of the ages on leadership, teamwork, personal effectiveness and respect to readers around the world.
So I have to admit that I was caught completely off guard one morning when one of our subscribers sent us a rather pointed email message stating that she was very upset with the quotations and was considering unsubscribing from the service. The reason? There were too many quotes from white men and not nearly enough from women or people from minority backgrounds. I was stunned. In 20 years, I had never really given much thought to where our quotes came from. In my mind, there was no apparent need to dissect the sources of inspiration we quoted, was there? Surely, inspiration would naturally be gender and color blind and organically reflect the diverse world we live in. Wouldn’t it?
Maybe not. When I later sat down and took a closer look at our quotation database, I found that our upset subscriber was absolutely correct. Close to 70% of our quotes were from white males. Names like Winston Churchill, Charles Schwab, Albert Camus, Aristotle, John Lennon, Vince Lombardi, John Maxwell and Abraham Lincoln dominated our list of famous saying authors. While there were occasional quotes from women like Mother Teresa and Eleanor Roosevelt, they were rarer than I’d like to admit. So how did this come to be? Call it the subtle influence of gender bias. When I went back to the handful of famous quote books on my bookshelf that I probably used when creating the original list years ago, every single one leaned heavily toward the sayings attributed to male leaders and historical figures. Being male myself, the overrepresentation of men was completely invisible to me.
That was then and this is now. Since receiving that email message, we have completely revised our database. Collected by Allie Peters, our Social Media and Marketing Manager, the new collection of quotes now includes more wisdom and insight from strong leaders and historical figures who are female and from more diverse backgrounds. You will now see more names like Sonia Sotomayor, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson and Anne Bradstreet joining their male counterparts.
We hope you like our refreshed take on inspiration. To sign up for Coffee & Keynote yourself, please visit: legacycultures.com/coffee-keynote/
I applaud you for not only ‘hearing ‘ the issue but supplying a solution. I began receiving your quotes from my supervisor years ago and when I decided to retire, I knew this resource had to go with me. As a woman of color I noticed your quotes and felt the same way as your other subscriber. But like so many of us, I chose not to do anything. Shame on me. What a teachable moment this has been for me. Change only comes when one is willing to change.
Donna, thank you so much for the thoughtful comment.I’ve been around strong women most of my life, so my blind spot, once illuminated, seemed pretty glaring to me. But that is the nature of unconscious bias, isn’t it? Everyone can see it in us except ourselves. :)