Over the past few weeks I have been immersed in conversation and online discussion about my post, Black Lives Matters, and The Future of Print. I wish I could say the feedback was all positive, but it wasn’t.

Inclusion and Diversity in the Print Industry

In this 115 comment and growing post in my LinkedIn group, Print Production Professionals, and in numerous conversations with men (yes, white men) representing numerous sectors and locations, it has been asserted that there is no sexism in the printing industry. At all. Why, because they haven’t seen it or experienced it. Therefore, it doesn’t exist. Racism wasn’t a factor or addressed.

When racism was acknowledged, quotas/affirmative action came up often, and how unfair it is for minorities to ‘take’ jobs when it should only be about the most qualified candidates, not “…white liberals giving black people handouts.” (I paraphrased that slightly to combine comments).

Then we have what I truly believe is the majority opinion based on the private notes and emails I received… there is systematic racism in the United States, and that system creeps its way into all nooks and crannies, even the printing industry. People in this group want to do something proactive, and accept that even though they are not racists in thoughts or actions, by no action they (you, me, us) have benefitted from the racist system over the years. This is where most of Gen-X is… coming to terms that being politically correct isn’t enough. Not being a racist, isn’t enough.

We are still part of the problem if we have done nothing to end racism, and that doesn’t make us bad people. I was stuck here for bit, it’s hard to get your mind around that. The best analogy I have is the racist system is like the Matrix. Once you get ‘woke’ and see it, everywhere, there is no going back. Not everyone wants to swallow the red pill, but we need to get there for change to happen in the world.

This is certainly a big issue and my posts and LinkedIn discussions aren’t going to move the needle as far as implementing policies and programs to proactively address diversity and inclusion in the printing industry. I reached out to the industry entities I work with to get their guidance and statements on this subject.

Lori Anderson, FASAE, CAE • President & CEO, International Sign Association 

The events of the last few weeks have highlighted for many the ugliness of racism in the United States. This clearly is the moment to once-and-for-all ensure the sign, graphics and visual communications industry is welcoming to all races, genders, orientations, etc.


We have long known that we thrive when everyone’s talents are welcomed, embraced, and appreciated. ISA has included diversity as part of our strategic vision as we provide a platform that empowers women and minorities to enter and succeed in the industry. Obviously, racism has no place in our industry or in the businesses that make up our industry. Nor do any of the other “isms” that prevent our best work from our best people.


We will continue to work to see an industry that reflects the broader makeup of our diverse humanity. Clearly, as an industry, there is more work to be done. We encourage a continued conversation to hear how we can grow and improve and how we ensure that signs mean business—for everyone.

Skip Henk • President & CEO, Xplor International

Xplor is committed to providing a safe place that fosters a caring and inclusive forum for all to grow both professionally and personally. We will be reassessing where we are today, identify our shortcomings, and develop a plan to make the association more inclusive.

Ford Bowers • President & CEO, PRINTING United Alliance

It is past time for the majority to freely admit it cannot grasp what it is like to live as a minority in this country. To live in a world of unremitting inequities, punctuated only by the lacerations of mortal injustices meted out on what feels like a daily basis. And while this specific experience is beyond our understanding, the underlying issues are not. We all have the capacity, for example, to understand prejudice, to comprehend racism, and to recognize injustice. For if we did not have this, how could we be held to a higher standard?


We can, furthermore, acknowledge prejudice as a human condition. And we can acknowledge that when prejudice becomes institutionalized in the structures of power it manifests itself as racism. And that institutions, thus corrupted, are not vehicles of justice for many.


We acknowledge these conditions and add our voice to the chorus of those who cry out for justice. Yet, it must not stop there. Acknowledgment is encouragement, but if not bound to action is of little lasting consequence.


At PRINTING United Alliance and NAPCO Media, we are taking active measures to first identify and provide our own staff with necessary resources, training, education, and support to ensure we are a company of diversity and truly a home for everyone. We are additionally working with our editorial staff to take stock in the diversity of our contributors, which is lacking, and to work to rectify that imbalance. We will also seek out specific resources to develop content on how to have dialog and discussion on this issue to include in webinars, articles, and other content to help our communities deal with the complex and sensitive nature of these issues.


These are just preliminary flagstones of a much longer path that lies ahead of us. We strive to do our part in contributing to a deeper understanding and compassion for this much-needed discussion and injustice. No one, humbly looking at the challenge this entails, can state an end result in terms of time or condition. Yet, to the extent that we develop these capabilities, it will become a part of what we are and what we stand for every day.

Tasha Ventimiglia • Labelexpo Event Director 

Tarsus runs many established trade shows around the world, including the renowned Labelexpo portfolio. Many of these are in emerging markets. By their very nature, these shows bring people together from all backgrounds and cultures, and we are proud of our track record in this regard.


Likewise, as a global employer, Tarsus has an extremely diverse workforce, and inclusivity is always at the forefront of workplace decisions. This is something we take extremely seriously and, given recent events, cannot be complacent about. Systemic racism has absolutely no place in our society, and we are continuously looking at what more we can do to dismantle this.


At a corporate level, Tarsus has chosen to support two organizations, in the UK and in the US, for the work they do in creating diverse talent pipelines for young BAME people moving into the world of work as we believe it is essential that we see our diverse societies reflected more in workplaces. We also recently announced a strategic alliance with the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP) in the US via our Connect division, which will see us support NCBMP’S student scholarships, internships, and professional development programs.


At our shows, we will continue to actively promote equality and diversity on site, such as developing speaker line-ups and programs that encourage greater participation, and see it reflected in our supply chain choices. Our industry exists to bring people together and it is our duty to create experiences and workplaces that are inclusive and representative of all cultures.


Trade shows like Labelexpo will be essential to kickstarting economic recovery as we move into the post-COVID19 phase, and that inclusivity will become more important than ever before.

Thayer Long • President, Association for Print Technologies

APTech has been listening, talking, researching, and finding ways to make real change in the industry. Words matter, but so does action. APTech has identified several diversity initiatives that we will be undertaking over the next months and years ahead. We are working on a long-term plan for our organization, and we plan to address this indefinitely.


In an effort to amplify Black voices, instead of speak for them, we will do the following:


Commit to finding, and then showcasing, introducing, highlighting Black-owned Print industry businesses in our periodicals, on our social pages, and on our podcasts.


Identifying and Interviewing Black executives and Black Print industry professionals (as well as other appropriate vertical industries) on our channels who are willing to share their experiences so we can listen and learn.


Sourcing and offering qualified diversity and inclusion experts as a resource for our member companies who wish to create more meaningful discussions and action.


Actively engaging our network on APTech Connect to discuss this further and source additional ideas– to listen and learn.


APTech understands this is not about us.  This is about creating significant change with REAL ACTION — NOT JUST WORDS.  We invite the wider Print industry to do the same.

These organizations are committed to making changes that will have a long-lasting effect on the industry and our ability to embrace the future and release the past.

To everyone who wrote to me that you wanted to be part of the change but didn’t know how, start by joining and supporting the efforts of these organizations, and their events. Let them know you want to be kept informed of their diversity programs as they develop. Engage in conversations, don’t get complacent. Keep the topic, topical with them. And of course, let them know what you can contribute to the effort. Every voice counts.

My last post included statements from Xerox and Canon. If you have seen any, or your company has taken a stand regarding racism and social injustice, please get in touch.

It’s going to take a minute, but with the Millennials and Gen Z sticking firmly to no intolerance on their watch I have more faith than ever we can acknowledge the past and protect the future of our industry, and the world.


ps… Please block off your calendars for the Elevate Print Conference from 10-2 PM ET on August 25-27 where we will discuss this topic as well as how to take print marketing, print applications, and print sales to the next level.

DeborahCorn-PrintMediaCentrDeborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse™ at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist™, industry speaker and blogger, host of Podcasts from The Printerverse, cultivator of Print Production Professionals the #1 print group on LinkedIn, Head Girl in Charge (H.G.I.C.) at GirlsWhoPrint, host of #PrintChat every Wednesday at 4 PM ET on Twitter, the founder of International Print Day and the founder of #ProjectPeacock. She is the recipient of several industry honors including the 2016 Girls Who Print Girlie Award and sits on the board of The Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi and is a Member-at-Large for the Advertising Production Club of NYC.

Deborah has 25+ years of experience working in advertising as a Print Producer. She currently provides printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through PMC and works behind the scenes with printers, suppliers, and industry organizations helping them create meaningful relationships with customers, and achieve success with their social media and content marketing endeavors.

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