“If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” Junot Diaz
Diversity, gender, equality, and inclusion in publishing are topics close to our hearts at Atwood Tate and we have talked about them often on our blog. 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”.
One of the main challenges, we often find, is that it is very hard to 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. Whilst steps are being taken to address this – for example Creative Access, Equip and a new Book Trade Charity grant of £1000 for graduates who can’t get a foot into publishing – it is important to recognise transferable skills from other sectors when hiring.
There is arguably a little more diversity in STM and professional publishing, partly 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. However, that can lead to other issues and it is important not to get complacent.
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. A diverse workforce with diverse interests will (hopefully) lead to more diverse content being produced. 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. OA publishing has, arguably, opened things up for developing countries (though it is not a magic solution) and other internationally focussed society publishers also take submissions from global researchers.
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.
It is important that we keep talking about these issues and thinking up new ideas to challenge the status quo.