Diversity & Inclusion – our long term, committed relationship with equity

June – the month for strawberry-picking, Glastonbury and the Jubliee…. Nothing short of a four-week celebration of what it is to be British. A perfect month for Pride month therefore, and to stand with our American friends in their national holiday of Juneteenth as we reflect on what we take most seriously as part of our culture, that is an ongoing commitment to Diversity & Inclusion.

Two years ago, the world made a commitment, catalysed by the tragic death of George Floyd, to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The publishing industry pledged to become a more inclusive environment for all underrepresented communities, regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, location, disabilities, gender and religion. So where are we now? Here are a few fantastic examples of where we have made progress:

The Bookseller: The Black Issue 2022 shows us that we now have more Black authors within the bestselling 1,000 authors than ever before. Indeed, not just who is being published but what is being commissioned is evolving. Publishers are increasing diversity in the topics and characters covered by their books, including on the non-fiction side where finance-focused publisher Harriman House released their first ever book on Women and Investing. Formats are also being more closely considered with accessibility in mind; the continuing rise of Audio being a fantastic enabler for readers who may not be able to access the traditional ‘words on a page’ structure of a book.

Larger Trade publishers are offering BAME schemes to enable and support the careers of those in underrepresented communities into publishing. This year, HarperCollins, PRH and Hachette produced their first ethnicity-gap report, offering a level of transparency that the recent gender-pay gap reports pushed for.

In academic publishing, Emerald are also publishing their ethnicity-gap report as part of their commitment to D&I. Emerald is an example of how publishers can, and many are, address their entire staff lifecycle with D&I high on the agenda at every point. They have worked with external partners to review all their recruitment processes and documents, with AI to screen their job adverts for bias language and select from anonymous applications. Once you’re a member of staff there, you can experience their group-wide diversity and inclusion network which includes events and learning programmes, facilitates peer listening exercises, and provides peer to peer support for putting diversity and inclusion skills into practice.

SAGE publishing have launched a new BAME Internship Scheme which starts next month. They have  hired seven paid internships, all dedicated places to those from underrepresented communities as they continue to enrich their Journals workforce with a wider diversity of staff.

Events, prizes and festivals have all given opportunities to further dedicate the publishing industry to inclusivity. Hachette Pride, the LGBTQ+  network for Hachette UK employees, is partnering with authors from across its publishing houses to run the festival, Pride in Writing which celebrates LGBTQ+ authors and their stories. This year’s programme has in-person and online events open to the public and will feature 13 Hachette UK authors. The Arvon Foundation and Campaign for National Parks have partnered with an Octopus imprint Gaia Books to sponsor the Nature Writing Prize for Working Class Writers. The prize is free to enter and encourages working-class writers from all over the UK.

Of course, having a recruitment process which allows for a diverse range of candidates to confidently apply is vital to creating a more diverse workforce and so we wanted to share a few tips on this:

  • Check your language: certain vocabulary can make certain groups of people feel excluded from the job and so having really inclusive language is key to getting in a diverse range of applications. There are some great tools in the market to help check this, such as Gender Decoder and Textio.
  • Where are you advertising?: If you only ever advertise in places designed for publishing communities then you will limit yourself to a certain pool of people. By expanding the range of places your job adverts can be seen in, you’re expanding the range of people who will see it.
  • Anonymise applications: Many publishers are doing this now and there are several methods for it, including using Survey Monkey which is very manageable and not going to break the bank.
  • Challenge your job spec: Are all those ‘must haves’ really must haves? Are there elements of them which could be trained? Opening your mind to what candidates must apply having done, could open up the door to many more applications.
  • Locations: Do you really need them to be office based? Or even hybrid on a weekly basis? Perhaps an office visit each month would suffice? Priscila Heathcote, Operations Director at Maths No Problem (part of the Fig Leaf Group) says, ‘not having the restriction of a physical office has definitely opened our doors to a more diverse and talent-rich team!’
  • Rethink Interviews: Having a diverse panel allows for greater diversity in the decision making of who will be hired, as well as representing an inclusive culture to potential candidates. Additionally, doing early stages remotely via phone or video-link can make it a more inclusive process for candidates who may find it hard to access an in-person interview whether it be for physical or financial reasons.

 

If you are interested in talking more about diversity in recruitment, there is lots more we have to say and we are always keen to learn more ourselves so please do contact us directly – 020 3668 6733.

As with any long-term, committed relationship, there is lots more work to be done. The Bookseller quotes Unbound Commissioning Editor, Aliya Gulamani, in saying “It’s possible for two things to be true at once – to say that the publishing industry has made progress since the Black Lives Matter international movement in 2020, and to say that, crucially, it hasn’t made much, if any at all”. Yes, there are more Black authors in the best-selling list but these tend to be high profile names, for example. Challenges are still very present but there is lots of change to celebrate and hard work to be proud of.

So, this June, I hope you can join us in looking forward to a future where D&I continues to build momentum, to sit high on the agenda of every publisher’s board meetings and to thrive in a long-term committed relationship with each and every one of us.