Stepping in the right direction on diversity

UK-PA-DandI-Survey-2019-Cover

As we start a new decade, the subject of diversity remains firmly on the radar for most businesses and industries in 2020. This is also true for our own publishing industry as we continue to see how issues around diversity and inclusion, such as women representation in senior management, impact the way publishers operate. I believe our industry has always been a place that fosters creativity giving a platform to diverse voices. However, the question for most is where are we in terms of diversity and are we going in the right direction?

If we take a step back, the business case for addressing and increasing diversity within the workforce is clear; a more diverse workforce leads to a better bottom line. However, it is more than just making businesses more profitable, it is simply the right thing to do. We want our industry to attract the best talent, to be diverse in all possible ways and to stimulate a more creative and innovative workforce. But such changes need to be more than just optics, it needs to be the product of meaningful change.

The first step to creating change is to really understand where you stand. For diversity this means we need to collect data about the type of people who work within our industry. This enables us to understand where the gaps within diversity lie and to give us a chance to make meaningful change. Currently there is no single benchmarking survey across the industry. However, a great example has to be the United Kingdom where the Publishers Association have made remarkable progress in understanding and stimulating a more diverse workforce. They have just released the results from their third diversity survey that now includes an impressive number of over 57 publishing companies covering a total of 12, 702 UK publishing industry employees. This is an increase of 97.5% in participation from 2018 that even included my own company, Elsevier. 

Clearly, diversity is on the radar of UK publishing companies and this data collection has led to truly remarkable progress. Back in 2018, The UK Publishers Association used their initial survey to launch a 10-point action plan. This plan also included two 5-year targets; to achieve 50% representation of women in senior leadership positions and to get the overall BAME representation to 15%. In less than three years they have already achieved their first objective of gender equality and are falling just 2% short of their second target concerning BAME representation.

Target setting is the only way you can stimulate change. What the numbers don’t show is that benchmarking also provides a valuable opportunity to have a conversation about diversity. To delve deeper than the facts and figures to really understand the trends, concerns and opportunities our industry has to seize to be more inclusive.  At the end of last year, I embarked on a project to better understand how trade associations were engaged on the topic of diversity. To date, my team and I have had over 50 conversations about diversity within the publishing industry and what is needed to place this topic higher on the agenda worldwide. While we work on the results and discuss concrete outcomes, the real value has certainly been taking the time to discuss, debate and exchange information.

In 2020, I really feel that we as an industry will start making clear progress on diversity, inspired by progress made in the UK and other key regions. I invite you all to join us at the London Book Fair for our panel session on making the publishing industry more open, diverse and inclusive

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