What is diversity?
Diversity can sometimes come across as a vague word pointing to race and/or gender. In reality, what makes diversity so complex and important is that it’s a blanket term for the many different categories of people and this is intersectional.
When I approached this topic, I wanted to make sure that I included not just race and gender, as important as those are, but also sexuality, and disability. When I found an article from Publishers Weekly, it included another link to an info-graphic from Lee and Lo Books which includes the aforementioned categories. When talking about the lack of diversity in the publishing industry, its lack comes from many different angles. Of course, diversity also includes other equally important identifiers like religion, ethnicity, class, etc.
At the beginning of 2016, Lee and Low Books, dedicated to publishing multicultural children’s books, published their 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey. This survey was sent to 13, 237 publishing & review employees of 34 publishers and 8 review journals to measure diversity within the publishing industry itself.
Combining the statistics of the executive level, editorial departments, marketing/publicity departments, and book reviewers, the publishing industry was: 79% white, 78% female (cis-woman), 88% straight/heterosexual, and 92% nondisabled.
Due to the lack of diversity in publishing, this is translated to what books are published and which audiences are prioritized. The book market suffers from a lack of inclusiveness.
Publishing companies, including the Big Five, have made efforts in improving diversity through internship programs and “diversity initiatives” but when it comes to diversity hiring—-this still remains a problem. Systematic racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc exists in the publishing world, just like many other industries.
In response, various authors and independent presses have made large strides in combating this problem. We Need Diverse Books, created in 2015 by authors, campaigns for diversity in children’s books. Indie presses like Lee and Lo Books, New Press, and Sibling Rivalry Press have taken large initiatives to hire diverse teams and publish books and subjects that would otherwise be ignored. Indie bookstores also have to opportunity to create spaces of diversity when large chain bookstores are not.
With that said, attacking this issue on a mainstream level is something that the publishing industry will have to address and now in the future. Which leads me to certain questions…