Building a relevant book industry for the future: Diversity

Slightly belated, as Frankfurt got in the way (in a good way of course), here is the third and final instalment in the blog series on the subject of Building a relevant book industry for the future: Diversity, Content and Data following the BIC New Trends in Publishing seminar.

Diversity in content and diversity in the workforce are inextricably linked. It is a positive step that we have seen public outcry from authors and publishers recently regarding the lack of diversity in content and we need to keep the momentum and pressure on in order to challenge what is unfortunately the norm in many publishing and media environments. Publishers are taking steps to try to develop a diverse workforce, for example Cat Crossley, Operations Manager at HarperCollins has recently set up a diversity focus group and Inclusive Minds, in partnership with publishers, the PA, IPG and EQUIP, will be holding an event in early 2015 with the aim “to turn discussions about diversity and inclusion into real action”.

Q: What are the current challenges facing the publishing industry with regards diversity in general, in terms of people recruited?

A: The main challenge is that you can’t get a job in publishing without doing internships and you can’t do internships if you don’t have parental financial support and a base in a publishing hub such as Oxford, London or Cambridge.

Creative Access, Equip and a new Book Trade Charity grant of £1000 for graduates who can’t get a foot into publishing are all working to combat this problem.

There is probably more diversity in STM and professional publishing and this is because people often come to these roles as a second career and their academic or professional background and qualifications are of particular value, so internships are not always a necessity.

Q: Is the publishing industry producing enough diverse content? What do we mean by diverse content?

A: No, is the short answer. Malorie Blackman’s recent interview on SKY and the uproar following this is evidence that we are not producing diverse enough content in children’s literature and beyond. There is also a group in the USA called We Need Diverse Books, so this is not just a problem in the UK. Diversity of content is perhaps a lesser problem in the academic sphere, as articles are subject to peer review and published on merit. However, the contributions will only be as diverse as the discipline, I guess. OA publishing has opened things up for developing countries and other internationally focussed society publishers also take submissions from global researchers.

Over the past few years we have seen a rise in translated fiction, so change can happen and is hopefully on the way.

Q: How does the recruitment of a diverse workforce impact the content produced?

A: Personal interests will influence and so a more diverse workforce will necessarily impact the content produced.

Career Development and pay
Q: Is there an issue in publishing with regards career progression, in terms of pay scales, diversity, awareness and opportunity?

We are still battling with gender inequality in publishing, which is a shame given that so many women are employed in the industry. Mentors are key and can help to encourage and prevent drop off rates. If there is someone championing you, it is easier to progress but if you find yourself without support from above, it can be a long wait for a promotion and sadly the industry does lose good people this way. Again, addressing pay equality and transparency could go some way to combatting this and encouraging equality.

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