One of the biggest challenges the publishing industry has at the moment is the lack of diversity within the workforce. And whilst I focus on the content of the books rather than the workforce, the two are inextricably linked. We tend to represent what we know, and with a homogenous workforce that comes across in what is published. And it's not that any staff who are usually marginalised or in the minority within the industry should be responsible for diverse content or relied on to answer questions, but that the more diversity you have within your teams the more perspectives and world views you have. And that enhances creativity. Working in an echo chamber won't do that.
However, diversifying the industry is going to take time and structural changes are going to need to take place before we see real change. The latest PA Workforce survey shows that change is slow. The results state that representation 'of people from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups' has remained around 13% since 2017. We need to ask why that is and whether the publishing industry is a safe space for everyone or if they are likely to be subject to micro aggressions. As Gamal Palmer says in his article 'You cannot solve diversity issues with diversity metrics': “The goal of DEI is to create a workplace where uncontrived and authentic culture shifts have created a place where the diverse people we want to hire actually want to work.”
In more positive news, the number of LGBT+ respondents to the PA survey has more than doubled since 2017 to 11% and the representation of 'people with a disability' has increased from 2% in 2017 to 8% in 2020, but aren't going to change until workforces are truly inclusive of all facets of diversity.
So what can you do in the in the time it takes for a more diverse and, importantly, inclusive industry to be built?
As well as those working in-house, I know that many publishers are seeking to work with freelancers, authors and illustrators with a variety of lived experiences and this will certainly make a difference.
But those working in the industry need to confront their own biases and learn the basic principles of inclusion, they also need to work with those with lived experience at an early stage in the book creation process to ensure that authentic characters are developed.
Everyone has a part to play in ensuring that the industry we are part of is inclusive and welcoming. Action needs to be taken daily.
What can you do today to make a difference?
My Inclusion Incubator and Foundations for Inclusion programmes will help you learn the basic principles of creating inclusive books and change your mindset about them, and Inclusive Minds has a network of Inclusion Ambassadors, young people with lived experience of various facets of diversity, many of them intersectional, that publishers, authors and illustrators can connect with at an early stage of the book creation process.